Maria Castro, Ph.D.

R C Schneider Collegiate Professor of Neurosurgery and Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology


Maria G. Castro, PhD is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Michigan, School of Medicine. My research program focuses on epigenetic regulation of cancer progression, uncovering the role of oncometabolites in the brain tumor microenvironment. My program also aims to develop immunotherapies for primary and metastatic brain cancer, studying basic immune-biology mechanisms leading to clinical implementation. My team is investigating the role of the tumor immune-microenvironment in tumor progression and response to therapeutics; crosstalk between cancer cells and hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells, and mechanisms affecting the migration of immune cells from peripheral lymphoid organs to the tumor microenvironment. Our innovative work has led to an FDA approved gene therapy Phase 1 clinical trial for malignant brain cancer which will start at the University of Michigan in the fall.

Research Interests

Cancer biology and therapeutics: epigenetics, cancer metabolism, signaling networks that mediate cancer progression. Uncovering the role of secreted cancer ligands in hematopoietic stem cells' development, anti-tumor immunity, and nanotechnologies to develop novel anti-cancer therapy.


Baker G, Chockley P, Yadav V, Doherty R, Ritt M, Sivaramakrishnan S, Castro MG, Lowenstein PR. (2014) Natural killer cells eradicate galectin-1 deficient glioma in the absence of adaptive immunity. Cancer Research, Epub July 18, 2014. PMID 25038230.

Candolfi M, Yagiz K, Wibowo M, Ahlzadeh G, Puntel M, Kamran N, Paran C, Ghiasi H, Lowenstein PR, Castro MG. (2014) Temozolomide does not impair gene therapy-mediated antitumor immunity in syngenic brain tumor models. Clinical Cancer Research. March 15, 2014: 20(6): 1555-65. Epub ahead of print February 5, 2014. Portrayed on the cover of the March, 2014 issue. PMCID: PMC3959570.

Sanderson NS, Puntel M, Kroeger KM, Bondale NS, Swerdlow M, Iranmanesh N, Yagita H, Ibrahim A, Castro MG, Lowenstein PR. (2012) Cytotoxic immunological synapses do not restrict the action of interferon-γ to antigenic target cells. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 2012 May 15: 109(20): 7835-40. Epub April 30, 2012. PMCID: PMC3356634.

Mineharu Y, King G, Muhammad AKM, Bannykh S, Kroeger K, Liu C, Lowenstein PR, Castro MG (2011) Engineering the brain tumor microenvironment enhances the efficacy of dendritic cells' vaccination: implications for clinical trials design. Clinical Cancer Research, 17(14), 4705-4718. Epub June 1, 2011. PMCID: PMC3208508.

Candolfi M, Xiong W, Yagiz K, Liu C, Muhammad AK, Puntel M, Foulad D, Zadmehr A, Ahlzadeh GE, Kroeger KM, Tesarfreund M, Lee S, Debinski W, Sareen D, Svendsen CN, Rodriguez R, Lowenstein PR, Castro MG. (2010) Gene therapy-mediated delivery of targeted cytotoxins for glioma therapeutics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 107(46):20021-20026. Epub Oct. 28, 2010. PMCID: PMC2993419.

Larocque D, Sanderson NRS, Bergeron J, Curtin J, Girton J, Wibowo M, Bondale N, Kroeger KM, Yang J, Lacayo LM, Reyes KC, Farrokh C, Pechnick RN, Castro MG, Lowenstein PR, (2010) Exogenous fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 ligand overrides brain immune privilege and facilitates recognition of a neo-antigen without causing autoimmune neuropathology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 107(32):14443-14448. Epub July 26, 2010. PMCID: PMC2922551.

Yang J, Sanderson N, Wawrowsky K, Castro MG, Lowenstein PR. (2010) Kupfer-type immunological synapse characteristics do not predict anti-brain tumor cytolytic T-cell functions in vivo. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. March 19, 2010; 107(10):4716-4721. Epub Jan 19, 2010. PMCID: PMC2842057.

Candolfi M, Yagiz K, Foulad D, Ahlsadeh GE, Tesarfreund M, Muhammad AKM, Puntel M, Kroeger KM, Liu C, Lee S, Curtin J, King GD, Lerner J, Sato K, Mineharu Y, Xiong W, Lowenstein PR, Castro MG. (2009) Release of HMGB1 in response to pro-apoptotic glioma killing strategies: efficacy and neurotoxicity. Clinical Cancer Research. July, 2009; 15(13):4401-4414. Portrayed on the highlights section of Cancer Research. PMCID: PMC2769255.

Curtin JF, Liu N, Candolfi M, Xiong W, Assi H, Yagiz Y, Edwards MR, Michelsen KS, Kroeger KM, Liu C, Muhammad AKM, Clark MC, Arditi M, Comin-Anduix B, Ribas A, Lowenstein PR, Castro MG. (2009) HMGB1 mediates endogenous TLR2 activation and brain tumor regression. PLoS Medicine. January 13, 2009; 6(1); e10. PMCID: PMC2621261.

Ali S, King G, Curtin J, Candolfi M, Xiong W, Liu C, Puntel M, Cheng Q, Prieto J, Ribas A, Kupiec-Weglinski J, van Rooijen N, Lassman H, Lowenstein PR, Castro MG. (2005) Combined immuno-stimulation and conditional cytotoxic gene therapy provide long term survival in a large glioma model. Cancer Research. August 15, 2005; 65(16):7194-7204. Portrayed on the highlights section of Cancer Research. PMCID: PMC1242178.