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Kavita Bhalla, PhD

Academic Title:

Assistant Professor

Primary Appointment:



Howard Hall, BRB 9009

Phone (Primary):


Education and Training

Graduate Study: I completed my PhD under the guidance of Drs. Grant Sutherland and David Callen from the  University of Adelaide, Australia, Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Postdoctoral training: My initial postdoctoral research was focused on understanding the role of genetic variations in human diseases -- primarily the intellectual disabilities of schizophrenia and hypertension. At this point in my research career it was clear to me that although genetic variations have huge impact on the etiology of diseases, great heterogeneity in complex disorders meant that the cellular environment as a whole should be explored for better disease management. I wanted to combine my expertise in the genetics of disease with molecular, biochemical, and systems approaches to complex diseases, therefore, I extended my research training in metabolic pathways altered in complex phenotypes.

Research/Clinical Keywords

Molecular genetics, Cancer Metabolism, Cognitive disorders, Diabetes and Cancer

Highlighted Publications

Emily D. Montal, Kavita Bhalla, Ruby E. Dewi, Christian F. Ruiz, John A. Haley, Ashley E. Ropell, Chris Gordon, John D. Haley, Geoffrey D. Girnun. Inhibition of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase blocks lactate utilization and impairs tumor growth in colorectal cancer Cancer Metab. 2019 Aug 1;7:8. PMID: 31388420

Bhalla K*, Jaber S, Nahid M N, Underwood K, Beheshti A, Landon A, Bhandary B, Bastain P, Evens AM, Haley J, Polster B, Gartenhaus RB. Role of hypoxia in Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma: Metabolic repression and selective translation of HK2 facilitates development of DLBCL.Sci Rep. 2018 Jan 15;8(1):744 .PMID:2933558 (* corresponding Author).

Singh A, Ruiz C, Bhalla K, Haley JA, Li QK, Acquaah-Mensah G, Montal E, Sudini KR, Skoulidis F, Wistuba II, Papadimitrakopoulou V, Heymach JV, Boros LG, Gabrielson E, Carretero J, Wong KK, Haley JD, Biswal S, Girnun GD. De novo lipogenesis represents a therapeutic target in mutant Kras non-small cell lung cancer. FASEB J. 2018

Additional Publication Citations

Complete list of publications in My Bibliography can be found at NCBI


Research Interests

Tumor microenvironment plays an important role in development of cancer. My current research is focused on cancer metabolism. In the long term I would like to understand contribution of cellular metabolism in the manifestation of complex disorders like cancer, diabetes and congenital diseases.

My initial  research training was focused on mapping translocation breakpoints, identifying genetic variations in human diseases, primarily, mental retardation.

In past few years I have been involved in productive research projects focused to understand metabolic pathways regulated in diabetes and cancer. I was awarded grant through NIH funded, Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC) Pilot and feasibility program, 2012, entitled: "The role of AFC in linking inflammation and type II diabetes”. We identified N-acetyl farnesyl cysteine (AFC) as a novel PPARg ligand that selectively modulates PPARg activity and improves glucose tolerance in diet induced obese (DIO) mice without the weight gain typically seen with clinically used TZD like rosiglitazone (Bhalla et al., 2011). In the study funded by NORC we determined that AFC exerts its insulin sensitizing effects by promoting alternate macrophage activation. PGC1a is an important metabolic regulator involved in diabetes and cancer. Our study published in the journal Cancer Research, 2011, for the first time demonstrated the role of PGC1a in promoting tumor growth. In another study we showed directly for the first time that metformin, an antidiabetic drug, reduces liver cancer by inhibiting lipogenesis (Bhalla et al., 2011). Our work suggests a possibility that use of metformin in diabetic patients with fatty liver disease may make these patients less susceptible for developing HCC. The study was praised by University of Maryland through a media release. The study also got coverage in other news sources including the local daily newspaper Baltimore Sun and science weblog Science daily.

I am currently working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of the Medicine, Greenebaum Cancer Center. My current research goal is focused on understanding metabolic regulation in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). We recently published a novel study demonstrating that hypoxic stress promotes DLBCL by selective stimulation of glycolytic enzyme hexokinase 2 (HK2).

My research work also involves understanding how Ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) gene exerts its effect on lymphoma development in response to DNA damage by coordinated regulation FOXO3a/SIRT1/SIRT3 axis.


Awards and Affiliations

1997:Aus-Aid Scholarship for PhD studies in Australia awarded by the government of Australia; (Joined the Department of Cytogenetics, Faculty of Medicine, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia).

2000: Research Abroad Scholarship, a travel grant from Adelaide University, Australia.

2001:Trusdale fellowship for research training in Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Irvine, California.

2011:Outstanding Award for Poster Presentation. Second Annual Cancer Biology Research Retreat, UMB

2012:Outstanding Award for Poster Presentation. Second Annual Cancer Biology Research Retreat, UMB

2018: Award of Excellence at the Cancer Center Research day at UMGCCC, UMB

Grants and Contracts

Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC) Pilot and feasibility grant, 2012

"The role of AFC in linking inflammation and type II diabetes”.

Role: PI

Research goal: To determine if AFC exerts its enhanced anti-inflammatory effects by promoting M2 macrophages, which improve adipocyte metabolism and glucose homeostasis.

American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant (05/01/18- 04/30/19):

“Impact of hypoxia on metabolic dysfunction in DLBCL”


Research goal: This study is focused on understanding the role of hypoxic stress in regulation of metabolic pathways in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).


Institutional Clinical translation Research (ICTR) (3/3/2019-3/3/2020):


“Metabolic role of ATM in DLBCL”

Research goal: RNA sequencing of DLBCL samples.