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Kim O'Neill

Microbiology & Molecular Biology

3142 LSB
Provo, UT 84602

Arrived at BYU 1992. Published 100+ pier reviewed papers over 600 presentations. Mentored over 300 undergraduates in research. Four patents.

Teaching Interests
Immunology, Molecular Biology

Research Interests
Our Lab focuses on three main aspects of cancer research:

  1. Prevention through education.
  2. Our laboratory focuses on the benefits that can be obtained through a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. We are investigating the many different plant chemicals that are involved in reducing cancer risk. We are studying phytochemicals at the molecular level to establish the mechanisms of protection. Current studies involve gene expression by certain phytochemicals, the effect of certain phytochemicals on DNA repair and immune function enhancement. We promote education by publishing our research findings in scientific journals, giving presentations at conferences and authoring chapters in scientific books.
  3. Enhancing the body’s own defense systems, particularly the immune system and DNA repair mechanisms. The body has natural defenses against cancer. We study the immune system and help with the development of possible vaccines that could be used against certain forms of cancer. We are currently studying the interface between the immune system and the cancer cell, focusing on tumor associated macrophages and their role in the cancer process. We have developed new methods to study angiogenesis and metastasis. Currently we are investigating the immune response to tumor cell microenvironment and see the effect on macrophages when placed in different tumor microenvironments. We have also developed the DNA repair assays that allow the measurement of certain cells repair capacity which aid in studies of apoptosis and DNA repair. Understanding how we can enhance the immune system’s ability to recognize cancer cells will play a major role in the fight against cancer. We are also studying how the disease spreads or how metastasis occurs at the molecular level, including the development of essential blood vessels to allow the tumor to grow. We are currently working with macrophages to elucidate their role in cancer development. We also are developing CAR technology by genetically engineering T cells to be used as a cancer therapeutic.
  4. Early detection of disease. Cancer is generally easier to treat, and a better outcome is assured, if the tumor growth is found early in its development, before metastatic spread. We have discovered a tumor marker found in serum that will aid in diagnosis, prognosis and tumor management. This maker accurately reflects tumor presence, and tumor stage. Several other laboratories working in this field have confirmed this research. We have developed and accurate test method for this marker, BYU has patented the discovery, and it has been licensed to a biotech company for commercial development.

University of Ulster, Ireland, Biomedical Sciences, D.Phil (1986)
University of Ulster, Ireland, Biology, B.Sc. (1980)

Honors and Awards
BYU Alumni Association: Alumni Professorship Award
BYU Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology: Teacher of The Year Award
Brigham Young University: Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Teaching Award
BYU College of Life Science: Outstanding Mentor Award
BYU College of Life Science: Creative Achievement Award
BYU Cancer Research Center: Cancer Research Mentorship Award
Ulster Cancer Foundation: Award for Special Endeavor


O'Neill KL, Weagel EG, Meng W, Townsend M, Velazquez EJ, Brog RA, Boyer MW, Weber KS, Robison RA. 2018. Biomarker analysis and clinical relevance of TK1 on the cell membrane of Burkitt’s lymphoma and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Oncotargets and Therapy.

Weagel EG, Meng W, Townsend MH, Velazquez-Espinoza E, Brog RA, Weber KS, Robison RA, O’Neill KL. 2017. Biomarker analysis and clinical relevance of thymidine kinase 1 on the cell membrane of Burkitt’s lymphoma and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. OncoTargets and Therapy. 10:4355-4367.

Townsend M, Felsted AM, Piccolo SR, Robison RA, O'Neill KL. 2017. Metastatic colon adenocarcinoma has a significantly elevated expression of IL-10 compared to primary colon adenocarcinoma tumors. Cancer Biology & Therapy.

Townsend MH, Anderson MD, Weagel EG, Velazquez EJ, Weber KS, Robison RA, O'Neill KL. 2017. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Cell lines A549 and NCI-H460 Express HPRT on the Plasma Membrane. Oncotargets and Therapy. 2017.

Townsend MH, Peck CJ, Meng W, Heaton MJ, Robison RA, O'Neill KL. 2017. Evaluation of Various Glyphosate Concentrations on DNA Damage in Human Raji Cells and its Impact on Cytotoxicity. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. 85:79-85.

Steck R, Hill S, Weigel E, Weber KS, Robison RA, O'Neill KL. 2015. Pharmacologic immunosuppression of mononuclear phagocyte phagocytosis by caffeine. Pharmacology Research & Perspectives. 3(6).

Weagel E, Smith C, Liu P, Robison RA, O'Neill KL. 2015. Macrophage polarization and its role in cancer. J. Clin. Cell Immunol. 6(4):1-8.

Shrestha G, StClair LL, O'Neill KL. 2014. The immunostimulating role of lichen polysaccahrides: A Review. Phytotherapy Research.

Shrestha G, El-Naggar AM, StClair LL, O'Neill KL. 2014. Anticancer Activities of Selected Species of North American Lichen Extracts. Phytotherapy Research.

Clifford AB, Elnaggar AM, Robison RA, O'Neill KL. 2013. Investigating the role of macrophages in tumor formation using a MaFIA mouse model. Oncology Reports. 30(2):890-896.

Lowe C, March JK, Bunnell AJ, O'Neill KL, Robison RA. 2013. PCR-based methodologies used to detect and differentiate the Burkholderia pseudomallei complex: B. pseudomallei, B. mallei, and B. thailandensis. Current Issues in Molecular Biology. 16:23-54.

Robison RA, O'Neill KL. 2013. Thymidine kinase 1: a universal marker for cancer. Cancer and Clinical Oncology. 2(1):159-167.

Robison RA, March JK, Cohen MN, Lindsey JM, Millar DA, Lowe C, Bunnell AJ, Schaalje GB, O'Neill KL. 2012. The differential susceptibility of spores from virulent and attenuated Bacillus anthracis strains to aldehyde- and hypochlorite-based disinfectants. MicrobiologyOpen. 1-8.

Robison RA, Gunnell MK, Lovelace CD, Satterfield BA, Moore EA, O'Neill KL. 2012. A multiplex real-time PCR assay for the detection and differentiation of Francisella tularensis subspecies. Journal of Medical Microbiology. 61:1525-1531.

Gupta-Elera G, Garrett A, Martinez A, Kraus R, Robison RA, O'Neill KL. 2012. A Comparison of Antioxidant Properties in Organic and Conventional Blueberries. Journal of Food Research. 1(3):1-7.

Alegre M, Robison RA, O'Neill KL. 2012. Thymidine kinase 1 upregulation is an early event in breast tumor formation. Journal of Oncology. 2012:5.

Alegre MM, Robison RA, O'Neill KL. 2012. Thymidine kinase 1upregulation is an early event in breast tumor formation. Journal of Oncology. 1-5.

Gupta G, Garrett A, Robison RA, O'Neill KL. 2012. The role of oxidative stress in prostate cancer -a review. European Journal of Cancer Prevention. 21(2):155-162.

Satterfield BA, Stewart AF, Lew CS, Pickett DO, Cohen M, Moore EA, Luedtke PF, O'Neill KL, Robison RA. 2010. A quadraplexed real-time PCR assay for rapid detection and differentiation of the Clostridium botulinum toxin genes A, B, E and F. Journal of Medical Microbiology. 59(1):55-64.

Pitt WG, Husseini GA, El-Fayoumi RI, O'Neill KL, Rapoport NY. 2000. DNA Damage Induced by Micellar-Delivered Doxorubicin and Ultrasound: Comet Assay Study. Cancer Letters. 154(211-216).

Hamilton C, Aidukaitis L, Liu P, Robison RA, O'Neill KL. 2014. Dietary Antioxidants in Prostate Cancer. , editor. Cancer: Oxidative Stress and Dietary Antioxidants. p. 183-191

Garrett AR, Gupta Elera G, Keller MA, Robison RA, O'Neill KL. 2013. The Role in Cancer Prevention and Treatment. , editor. Bioactive Foods in Aging. p. Chapter 3, p33-42