Jessica Thaxton, Ph.D, MsCR

Principal Investigator

Dr. Thaxton is an Assistant Professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Orthopaedics and the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Medical University of South Carolina.  Dr. Thaxton received her BA from Amherst College in 2001 and her PhD from Brown University in 2009. From 2001-2004 Dr. Thaxton began her research career in transplantation immunology at Harvard Medical School and the Garvan Institute for Medical Research. In her graduate career Jessica focused on immune tolerance. In her postdoctoral work at Oregon Health & Sciences University and Medical University of South Carolina Jessica trained in the areas of virus specific T cell responses and T cell activation and metabolism in the context of cancer. Jessica is the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center K12 clinical oncology awardee 2015-2017 and is further supported by the American Cancer Society.

Lee leddy, md, mscr

Dr. Leddy is an Associate Professor of Orthopaedics at Medical University of South Carolina and serves as Chair of the MUSC Department of Orthopaedics and Physical Medicine.  Dr. Leddy received his BS from Emory University in Biological Sciences in 1999 and his MD from University of Florida School of Medicine in 2003. He then returned to Emory University Department of Orthopaedics for an internship, his residency, and fellowship. His clinical interests include bone cancers, orthopaedic oncology, sarcomas, and total joint reconstruction. Dr. Leddy plays an integral role in the Thaxton Lab by bringing clinical relevance to our research. Dr. Leddy recently won a grant that focuses on negative pressure wound healing in sarcoma patients.


Clinical team

lab team

Katie hurst, mph

Katie graduated from Clemson University in 2012 with a BA in Biological Sciences with a minor in Psychology.  Katie’s interest in cancer biology led her to the Medical University of South Carolina after graduation to pursue a career in molecular cancer research, whereafter she transitioned into cancer immunology research.  She holds a special interest in the patient psychological response to cancer and how the immune system can regulate this response.  Katie serves as lab manager for the Thaxton Lab while pursuing her Masters in Public Health with a concentration in health behavior at the Medical University of South Carolina, where she graduated in 2020.

graduate student

collaborator with Dr. Thaxton and her lab team. He has research interests that are broad and diverse and include basic science, clinical studies and innovative technologies. Outside of work he enjoys staying active, snow skiing, hiking, and traveling.

lab manager

sophia traven, md


Dr. Traven is a chief resident in orthopaedics at the Medical University of South Carolina. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where she graduated summa cum laude and with Phi Beta Kappa honors. She then completed her medical degree at the University of Virginia on a full scholarship from the U.S. Air Force, prior to matching into residency in Charleston and being inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha honors medical society. Her clinical interests include orthopaedic oncology, total joint arthroplasty, and complex trauma and joint reconstruction. Outside of work, she enjoys running, hiking, and flying.

clinical collaborator

clinical collaborator


Zeke J. Walton, MD

clinical collaborator

Dr. Walton is a native of Greenville,SC. He completed his undergraduate work at The University of South Carolina in Columbia where he graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He then earned his medical doctorate from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC where he graduated Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA).  He then completed his Orthopaedic Surgery residency at MUSC and a fellowship in Orthopaedic Oncology and Joint Reconstruction at Emory University. He returned to join the Orthopaedic faculty at MUSC in 2014. He is actively involved in patient care, resident and medical student education   and  is  an  active  contributor  and

Megan tennant, ms

david neskey, md, mscr

Dr. Neskey is an Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Neskey received his BS from Colby College in Biology and his MD with distinction in research from Albany Medical College. He then completed his head and neck surgery residency at the University of Miami and continued to MD Anderson Cancer Center for his fellowship. He joined the faculty at MUSC in 2014 and established his research lab which studies the role of p53 in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. In addition, Dr. Neskey leads an ongoing Phase II clinical trial studying anti-PD1 as a novel neoadjuvant presurgical therapy for locally advanced oral cavity cancer.


Alex andrews, ph.d

postdoctoral scholar


Megan graduated from Bluefield College in 2015 with a BS in General Biology before attending Appalachian State University, where she completed her MS in cellular and molecular biology. Megan’s interest in translational research led her to the Medical University of South Carolina after graduation to pursue a PhD in biomedical sciences. Megan’s interest in bench-to-bedside research fell in line with current research in the Thaxton lab, where she is especially excited about working alongside MD collaborators to enhance current cancer immunotherapies. 

Dr. Andrews is a postdoctoral scholar and ITOS fellow in the Department of Orthopaedics at the Medical University of South Carolina. He received his B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Missouri in 2012, before completing his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University in the Department of Cell Biology in 2018, where his research focused on mechanisms of DNA repair. An interest in cancer immunotherapy led him to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals for a fellowship studying murine models of CAR T cell therapy, before joining the Thaxton lab in 2020. His current research focuses on the cell stress response in T cell-mediated anti-tumor immunity.


ellie hunt

graduate student

Brian riesenberg, ph.d

postdoctoral scholar

k9 unit (and some cats & a cow)

jake and aspen.jpg

 Jake & Aspen                Cocoa                     Julie                           Millie


Cal                         Merlot                   Charlie & Caramel

Dr. Riesenberg is a postdoctoral scholar and PIRE Fellow in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina. He received his B.S. in Biology from Barton College as a 4-year member the men's varsity soccer program before obtaining his Ph.D. from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2019. Prior to joining the Thaxton Lab, Brian's research took him to the Pelotonia Institute for Immuno-Oncology at The Ohio State University where he focused on T cell exhaustion, development of high-dimensional spectral flow cytometry technology, preclinical in vivo modeling, and technology commercialization. His current work is focused on translating the discoveries made by the research group into novel therapeutics to improve patient outcomes.