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Faculty Profile: Dr. Abraham Schneider

Written by Adam Zewe

Hidden inside the oral cavity, cancerous tumors can potentially spread their deadly cells throughout the human body. From his lab at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD), Assistant Professor Abraham Schneider, DDS, PhD, devotes his career to stopping such tumors in their tracks.

Researching new cancer treatments has become Dr. Schneider's personal mission, since prostate cancer claimed the life of his father. Dr. Schneider developed a passion for scientific discovery while completing an advanced general dentistry program in Rochester, N.Y. A native of Lima, Peru, he completed dental school in his home country before coming to the U.S. in 1991 to expand his education. Although he returned to Peru and established a periodontics practice, he remained focused on someday becoming a scientist. After a few years in private practice, Dr. Schneider returned to the U.S. to earn a PhD at the University of Michigan and launch his career as a cancer researcher.

While at Michigan, Dr. Schneider met Dr. Stohler, who was then head of the Department of Biologic and Material Sciences. Dr. Schneider later accepted a job offer from Dr. Stohler when he became dean at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. Dr. Schneider saw UMSOD as a place where his budding research career could blossom. He quickly dove into research projects at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where his focus shifted to head and neck cancer. "I saw that there was a real need for more basic and translational research into oral cancer. I felt a strong desire to contribute to the fight against this disease," he remarks.

Currently, Dr. Schneider conducts a groundbreaking study of potential treatments for preventing the conversion of premalignant oral lesions into cancer. He seeks to better understand why the first-line diabetes drug metformin can stop benign tumors from becoming malignant. His ultimate goal is to determine which patients will benefit most from metformin in the oncologic setting. Metformin, unlike many cancer drugs, is both inexpensive and has relatively few side effects. Using this medication, patients with premalignant oral lesions could receive life-saving treatment without undergoing the pain of surgery and chemoradiotherapy that occur once malignant tumors develop. "As a former clinician, I always have the patient in mind. That's the ultimate goal: to improve the quality of life for the patient by controlling disease progression," says Dr. Schneider.

When he's not busy in the lab, Dr. Schneider spends time with his wife, Monica, and their two children, ages 9 and 10.

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