Skip to Content

Donna F. Kusewitt, DVM, PhD

Present Title & Affiliation

Primary Appointment

Professor, Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis, Science Park - Research Division, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Smithville, TX

Research Interests

Skin cancer, epithelial-mesenchymal transformation, animal models of cancer.

Research interests in Dr. Kusewitt's laboratory focus on the adverse effects of ultraviolet radiation (UVR), with an emphasis on studies of skin carcinogenesis in animal models, including melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer. The Slug transcription factor plays an important role in epithelial-mesenchymal transformation (EMT) during embryogenesis and is expressed in adult tissues during EMT-like processes involved in carcinoma progression and wound healing. Her ongoing research projects examine the role of the transcription factor Slug in skin homeostasis, skin carcinogenesis, and cutaneous wound healing. The unexpected finding that Slug knockout mice are resistant to sunburn has led her laboratory to demonstrate and investigate a novel role for Slug in controlling UVR-induced cutaneous inflammation.

As a veterinary pathologist, Dr. Kusewitt serves as Director of the Mutant Mouse Pathology Service (MMPS), a Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) shared resource, which provides fee-for service experimental pathology support for a variety of investigators. Services offered by the MMPS include ante mortem imaging, necropsy, descriptive and semi-quantitative histopathology, immunohistochemistry interpretation, virtual slide preparation, morphometry, laser capture microdissection, serum chemistry, and hematology.

Office Address

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
1808 Park Road 1-C
P.O. Box 389
Unit Number: 116
Smithville, TX 78957
Room Number: SRA 1.128
Phone: 512-237-9347

Education & Training

Degree-Granting Education

1987 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, PHD, Medical Sciences
1977 University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, DVM, Veterinary Medicine
1973 University of Missouri, St. Louis, MO, BA, Biology

Postgraduate Training

1980-1982 Post-Doctoral Fellow, Veterinary Pathology, The Lovelace Institutes, ITRI, Albuquerque, NM
1978-1980 Research Residency, Veterinary Pathology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL


Other Appointments/Responsibilities

Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, College of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Little Rock, AR, 1997-1998
Clinical Associate Professor, University of New Mexico, College of Pharmacy, Albuquerque, NM, 1993-1997

Selected Publications

Peer-Reviewed Original Research Articles

1. Quan KK, Kusewitt DF, Hudson LG. Glyoxal leads to defective keratinocyte migration and down-regulation of Snai2. J Dermatol Sci 73(2):166-9, 2/2014. e-Pub 10/18/2013. PMID: 24210586.
2. Badeaux MA, Jeter CR, Gong S, Liu B, Suraneni MV, Rundhaug J, Fischer SM, Yang T, Kusewitt D, Tang DG. In vivo functional studies of tumor-specific retrogene NanogP8 in transgenic animals. Cell Cycle 12(15):2395-408, 8/1/2013. e-Pub 6/26/2013. PMCID: PMC3841319.
3. Sarkar J, Dominguez E, Li G, Kusewitt DF, Johnson DG. Modeling gene-environment interactions in oral cavity and esophageal cancers demonstrates a role for the p53 R72P polymorphism in modulating susceptibility. Mol Carcinog. e-Pub 3/8/2013. PMCID: PMC3926899.
4. Lange SS, Bedford E, Reh S, Wittschieben JP, Carbajal S, Kusewitt DF, DiGiovanni J, Wood RD. Dual role for mammalian DNA polymerase ζ in maintaining genome stability and proliferative responses. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110(8):E687-96, 2/19/2013. e-Pub 2/5/2013. PMCID: PMC3581960.
5. Burns EM, Tober KL, Riggenbach JA, Schick JS, Lamping KN, Kusewitt DF, Young GS, Oberyszyn TM. Preventative topical diclofenac treatment differentially decreases tumor burden in male and female Skh-1 mice in a model of UVB-induced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. Carcinogenesis 34(2):370-7, 2/2013. e-Pub 11/3/2012. PMCID: PMC3564442.
6. Burns EM, Tober KL, Riggenbach JA, Kusewitt DF, Young GS, Oberyszyn TM. Differential effects of topical vitamin E and C E Ferulic® treatments on ultraviolet light B-induced cutaneous tumor development in Skh-1 mice. PLoS One 8(5):e63809, 2013. e-Pub 5/14/2013. PMCID: PMC3653797.
7. Burns EM, Tober KL, Riggenbach JA, Kusewitt DF, Young GS, Oberyszyn TM. Extended UVB exposures alter tumorigenesis and treatment efficacy in a murine model of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. J Skin Cancer 2013:246848, 2013. e-Pub 10/27/2013. PMCID: PMC3826430.
8. Lewis LA, Huskey PS, Kusewitt DF. High Incidence of Scrotal Hernias in a Closed Colony of FVB Mice. Comp Med 62(5):391-4, 10/2012. PMCID: PMC3472603.
9. Shirley SH, Greene VR, Duncan LM, Torres Cabala CA, Grimm EA, Kusewitt DF. Slug expression during melanoma progression. Am J Pathol 180(6):2479-89, 6/2012. e-Pub 4/13/2012. PMCID: PMC3378849.
10. Perez C, Parker-Thornburg J, Mikulec C, Kusewitt DF, Fischer SM, Digiovanni J, Conti CJ, Benavides F. SKHIN/Sprd, a new genetically defined inbred hairless mouse strain for UV-induced skin carcinogenesis studies. Exp Dermatol 21(3):217-20, 3/2012. PMCID: PMC3881295.
11. Badeaux AI, Yang Y, Cardenas K, Vemulapalli V, Chen K, Kusewitt D, Richie E, Li W, Bedford MT. Loss of the methyl lysine effector protein PHF20 impacts the expression of genes regulated by the lysine acetyltransferase MOF. J Biol Chem 287(1):429-37, 1/2/2012. e-Pub 11/9/2011. PMCID: PMC3249094.
12. Chavez MG, Buhr CA, Petrie WK, Wandinger-Ness A, Kusewitt DF, Hudson LG. Differential downregulation of e-cadherin and desmoglein by epidermal growth factor. Dermatol Res Pract 2012:309587, 2012. e-Pub 1/16/2012. PMCID: PMC3270554.
13. Dhabhar FS, Saul AN, Holmes TH, Daugherty C, Neri E, Tillie JM, Kusewitt D, Oberyszyn TM. High-anxious individuals show increased chronic stress burden, decreased protective immunity, and increased cancer progression in a mouse model of squamous cell carcinoma. PLoS One 7(4):e33069, 2012. e-Pub 4/25/2012. PMCID: PMC3338811.
14. Shirley SH, Grimm EA, Kusewitt DF. Ultraviolet radiation and the slug transcription factor induce proinflammatory and immunomodulatory mediator expression in melanocytes. J Skin Cancer 2012:410925, 2012. e-Pub 6/13/2012. PMCID: PMC3382223.
15. Benavides F, Perez C, Blando J, Contreras O, Shen J, Coussens LM, Fischer SM, Kusewitt DF, Digiovanni J, Conti CJ. Protective role of cathepsin L in mouse skin carcinogenesis. Mol Carcinog. e-Pub 5/2/2011. PMCID: PMC3155742.
16. Shirley SH, Hudson LG, He J, Kusewitt DF. The skinny on Slug. Mol Carcinog 49(10):851-61, 10/2010. PMCID: PMC3632330.
17. Perez CJ, Jaubert J, Guénet JL, Barnhart KF, Ross-Inta CM, Quintanilla VC, Aubin I, Brandon JL, Otto NW, DiGiovanni J, Gimenez-Conti I, Giulivi C, Kusewitt DF, Conti CJ, Benavides F. Two hypomorphic alleles of mouse Ass1 as a new animal model of citrullinemia type I and other hyperammonemic syndromes. Am J Pathol 177(4):1958-68, 10/2010. e-Pub 8/19/2010. PMCID: PMC2947290.
18. Suraneni MV, Schneider-Broussard R, Moore JR, Davis TC, Maldonado CJ, Li H, Newman RA, Kusewitt D, Hu J, Yang P, Tang DG. Transgenic expression of 15-lipoxygenase 2 (15-LOX2) in mouse prostate leads to hyperplasia and cell senescence. Oncogene 29(30):4261-75, 7/29/2010. e-Pub 5/31/2010. PMCID: PMC3042242.
19. Hudson LG, Gale JM, Padilla RS, Pickett G, Alexander BE, Wang J, Kusewitt DF. Microarray analysis of cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas reveals enhanced expression of epidermal differentiation complex genes. Mol Carcinog 49(7):619-29, 7/2010. PMCID: PMC3626076.
20. Parent AE, Newkirk KM, Kusewitt DF. Slug (Snai2) expression during skin and hair follicle development. J Invest Dermatol 130(6):1737-9, 6/2010. e-Pub 2/11/2010. PMID: 20147965.
21. Wittschieben JP, Patil V, Glushets V, Robinson LJ, Kusewitt DF, Wood RD. Loss of DNA polymerase zeta enhances spontaneous tumorigenesis. Cancer Res 70(7):2770-8, 4/1/2010. e-Pub 3/9/2010. PMCID: PMC3008348.
22. Ishikawa TO, Kumar IP, Machado HB, Wong KP, Kusewitt D, Huang SC, Fischer SM, Herschman HR. Positron emission tomography imaging of DMBA/TPA mouse skin multi-step tumorigenesis. Mol Oncol 4(2):119-25, 4/2010. e-Pub 2/2/2010. PMCID: PMC2838935.
23. Alexander A, Cai SL, Kim J, Nanez A, Sahin M, MacLean KH, Inoki K, Guan KL, Shen J, Person MD, Kusewitt D, Mills GB, Kastan MB, Walker CL. ATM signals to TSC2 in the cytoplasm to regulate mTORC1 in response to ROS. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 107(9):4153-8, 3/2/2010. e-Pub 2/16/2010. PMCID: PMC2840158.
24. Hudson LG, Newkirk KM, Chandler HL, Choi C, Fossey SL, Parent AE, Kusewitt DF. Cutaneous wound reepithelialization is compromised in mice lacking functional Slug (Snai2). J Dermatol Sci 56(1):19-26, 10/2009. e-Pub 7/29/2009. PMID: 19643582.
25. Duncan FJ, Martin JR, Wulff BC, Stoner GD, Tober KL, Oberyszyn TM, Kusewitt DF, Van Buskirk AM. Topical treatment with black raspberry extract reduces cutaneous UVB-induced carcinogenesis and inflammation. Cancer Prev Res (Phila Pa) 2(7):665-72, 7/2009. PMID: 19584078.
26. Chandler HL, Newkirk KM, Kusewitt DF, Dubielzig RR, Colitz CM. Immunohistochemical analysis of ocular hemangiomas and hemangiosarcomas in dogs. Vet Ophthalmol 12(2):83-90, Mar-Apr, 4/2009. PMID: 19261162.
27. Kusewitt DF, Choi C, Newkirk KM, Leroy P, Li Y, Chavez MG, Hudson LG. Slug/Snai2 is a downstream mediator of epidermal growth factor receptor-stimulated reepithelialization. J Invest Dermatol 129(2):491-5, 2/2009. e-Pub 8/14/2008. PMID: 18685621.
28. Benavides F, Oberyszyn TM, VanBuskirk AM, Reeve VE, Kusewitt DF. The hairless mouse in skin research. J Dermatol Sci 53(1):10-8, 1/2009. e-Pub 10/19/2008. PMCID: PMC2646590.
29. Ludes-Meyers JH, Kil H, Parker-Thornburg J, Kusewitt DF, Bedford MT, Aldaz CM. Generation and characterization of mice carrying a conditional allele of the Wwox tumor suppressor gene. PLoS One 4(11):e7775, 2009. PMCID: PMC2777388.
30. Wulff BC, Kusewitt DF, VanBuskirk AM, Thomas-Ahner JM, Duncan FJ, Oberyszyn TM. Sirolimus reduces the incidence and progression of UVB-induced skin cancer in SKH mice even with co-administration of cyclosporine A. J Invest Dermatol 128(10):2467-73, 10/2008. PMCID: PMC2606089.
31. Newkirk KM, Duncan FJ, Brannick EM, Chandler HL, Parent AE, Kusewitt DF. The acute cutaneous inflammatory response is attenuated in Slug-knockout mice. Lab Invest 88(8):831-41, 8/2008. PMID: 18458671.
32. Chandler HL, Kusewitt DF, Colitz CM.. Modulation of matrix metalloproteinases by ultraviolet radiation in the canine cornea. Vet Ophthalmol 11(3):135-44, 5/2008. PMID: 18435653.
33. Wulff BC, Schick JS, Thomas-Ahner JM, Kusewitt DF, Yarosh DB, Oberyszyn TM. Topical treatment with OGG1 enzyme affects UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis. Photochem Photobiol 84(2):317-21, Mar-Apr, 4/2008. PMID: 18086242.
34. Newkirk KM, MacKenzie DA, Bakaletz AP, Hudson LG, Kusewitt DF. Microarray analysis demonstrates a role for slug in epidermal homeostasis. J Invest Dermatol 128(2):361-9, 2/2008. PMID: 17637818.
35. Visone R, Iuliano R, Palmieri D, Server IN, Chiappetta G, De Martino I, Fedele M, Costinean S, Oberyszyn TM, Kusewitt DF, Croce CM, Fusco A. Hmga1 null mice are less susceptible to chemically induced skin carcinogenesis. Eur J Cancer 44(2):318-25, 1/2008. PMID: 18155899.


1. Bolon B, Brayton C, Cantor GH, Kusewitt DF, Loy JK, Sartin EA, Schoeb TR, Sellers RS, Schuh JC, Ward JM. Editorial: best pathology practices in research using genetically engineered mice. Vet Pathol 45(6):939-40, 11/2008. PMID: 18984800.

Book Chapters

1. Kusewitt, D.F. Neoplasia and Tumor Biology. In: Pathologic Basis of Verterinary Disease, 5th. Ed(s) McGavin, M.D.; Zachary, J.F. Mosby Elsevier: St. Louis, 2012.

Letters to the Editor

1. Perez CJ, Rundhaug JE, Johnson DG, Oberyszyn TM, Tober KL, Kusewitt DF. Slug Expression in Mouse Skin and Skin Tumors Is Not Regulated by p53. J Invest Dermatol 134(2):566-8, 2/2014. e-Pub 9/5/2013. PMCID: PMC3947144.

Last updated: 12/16/2014