CruzMonserrate_Zobeida_720x720Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
400 W. 12th Ave.
2041 Wiseman Hall

Research Interests

  • Pancreatic Diseases
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Pancreatitis
  • Early detection of Pancreatic Diseases
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

Current Research

My laboratory research program is focused on studying pancreatic diseases in particular pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) which is one of the most deadly human malignancies, with dismal long-term survival and limited advances in treatment. The long-term goals of my research laboratory are to develop novel strategies for the detection, prevention and treatment of PDAC and pancreatitis via uncovering unique mechanisms related to the initiation of these diseases. Towards this goal we have shown that the molecule integrin alpha6beta4, the enzyme Cathepsin E (CTSE), and pH-sensitive imaging probes are all early biomarkers of PDAC development. I have been engaged in the development of novel imaging probes that have the potential to detect and treat pancreas containing early lesions of PDAC using the enzymatic activity of CTSE using pre-clinical mouse models. This technology applies to any other diseases that express CTSE at high levels which is the case of pancreatic cancer.

We are also interested in the prevention of obesity-associated tumor development. Obesity has been associated with an increased risk of cancer development, in particular PDAC. Obesity rates in adults and children have also skyrocketed during the past 2 decades. Therefore, it is critical that we begin to understand the molecular mechanisms of how obesity promotes cancer development. In an effort to discover alternative methods of studying obesity and its relationship to PDAC development, I recently developed a novel transgenic mouse model of obesity-associated PDAC which I have used to study some of the mechanisms that link obesity and PDAC.

Research Techniques

We use a combination of in vitro and in vivo approaches to model pancreatic diseases in an effort to develop preventive strategies and discover biomarkers for early detection.

Active Funding

  • Biorepository for Diseases of the Exocrine Pancreas
    ChiRhoClin Research Institute 02/05/2017 - 02/05/2018
    Role: Principal Investigator 

  • U01DK108327 (PI: Conwell) 09/01/2015 - 08/31/2020
    National Institution Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases
    Consortium for the Study of Chronic Pancreatitis, Diabetes, and Pancreatic Cancer
    Role: Co-Investigator-1% effort/Cost-shared


BS: Magna Cum Laude, Coastal Marine Biology, University of Puerto Rico, Humacao, PR, 2000
Pre-doctoral Fellowship: National Institute of Health (NIH), National Cancer Institute (NCI), Cancer Research Training, Screening Technologies Branch, Developmental Therapeutics Program, Division of Cancer Treatment & Diagnosis, Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center, Frederick, MD, 08/2000-07/2002
Biotechnology Graduate Program: Johns Hopkins University, 08/2001-05/2002
PhD: Biomedical Sciences; Cancer Cell Biology PhD Dissertation: Integrin α6β4 Contributions in Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, 2007
Postdoctoral Fellowship: Cancer Biology, Pancreatic Cancer Research, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, Mentor: Dr. Craig D. Logsdon, 8/2007-1/2012

Honors and News

  • Collaborative Alliance for Pancreatic Education and Research (CAPER) PancreasFest Scholarship, 2016
  • Basic Science Research Poster of Distinction, American Pancreatic Association, 2016 and 2017

Research lab  PubMed articles