Dominic Arris, PhD



Dominic Arris

Graduate Student

Personal Statement:

Ph.D IBMS Physiology and Pharmacology Discipline

Lab Association:
Shivani Ruparel, Ph.D

Hobbies and Interests:
Hiking, Card Games, Boston Red Sox, Manchester United


2017: Bachelor of Science in Human Biology
University of Southern Maine – Portland, Maine


The incidence of head and neck cancers is growing worldwide, and despite modern medical advancements, the 5-year survival rate has remained at 50% for decades. Moreover, with continued high rates of alcohol and tobacco use, incident rates have been estimated to worsen. Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) accounts for 90% of all head and neck cancers for which the only recent anti-cancer therapies that are FDA approved, are small molecule EGFR inhibitors and PD-1 monoclonal antibodies. The recent advent of immunomodulatory drugs as powerful anti-cancer therapies has highlighted the importance of furthering our understanding of immune responses during cancer progression. Informed explorations into the contributions of the immune system to the oral tumor microenvironment are in critical need and necessary to develop powerful interventions. Interestingly, recent studies show that denervating prostate, skin, gastric, and pancreatic tumor-bearing tissue of sensory nerves slows tumorigenesis. Moreover, afferent sensory neuron functions have well established immune-modulatory activity under many disease and homeostatic conditions. Despite many reports implicating the peripheral nervous system in cancer progression, the specific role of afferent sensory neurons in OSCC tumorigenesis is markedly unknown and is still a significant gap in knowledge.

Understanding the involvement of sensory neurons in respect to oral cancer’s progression is not the only front in which this disease needs to be battled on – Pain is often the presenting and top ranked symptom for patients with head and neck cancer. Subsequently, many patients require opiates, kindling the national epidemic. Therefore, we are not only looking at how the sensory nervous system regulates oral tumorigenesis, but also how oral tumors regulate sensory neurons at the primary site of tumor development.  This field of research is significant because of the potential for developing a multi-hit therapy that treats both head and neck cancer progression and pain.

Awards & Accomplishments


2020 – Present: Craniofacial Oral-Biology Student Training in Academic Research (COSTAR) T32DE014318

Media Appearances:

June 2021: Arris, Dominic. “Western high-fat diet can cause chronic pain, according to new study”. Science Daily. Online Newspaper.

September 2021: Arris, Dominic. “You Feel What You Eat: ω-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Drive Painful Neuropathy in Mice”. Pain Research Forum. Online Newspaper.

April 2015: Arris, Dominic. “USM using beer to raise student’s chemistry grades”. News Center Maine. Newspaper.

January 2015: Arris, Dominic. “USM develops some chemistry with Portland High School”. The Forecaster. Newspaper.


2021: 1st Place Oral Presentation, 38th Annual Dental Science Symposium, UTHSCSA.

2019: 3rd Place Poster Presentation, 36th Annual Dental Science Symposium, UTHSCSA.

2018: 2nd Place Poster Presentation, 35th Annual Dental Science Symposium, UTHSCSA.

2017: Undergraduate Research Opportunities Fellowship Award, University of Southern Maine.


2021 – Present: International Association for Dental Research

2020 – Present: International Associate for the Study of Pain

2017 – Present: Society for Neuroscience



Grayson M, Arris D, Wu P, Merlo J, Ibrahim T, Fang-Mei C, Valenzuela V, Ganatra S, Ruparel S. Oral squamous cell carcinoma-released brain-derived neurotrophic factor contributes to oral cancer pain by peripheral tropomyosin receptor kinase B activation. Pain. 2022 Mar 1;163(3):496-507. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000002382. PMID: 34321412; PMCID: PMC8678394.

Boyd JT, LoCoco PM, Furr AR, Bendele MR, Tram M, Li Q, Chang FM, Colley ME, Samenuk GM, Arris DA, Locke EE, Bach SBH, Tobon A, Ruparel SB, Hargreaves KM. Elevated dietary ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids induce reversible peripheral nerve dysfunction that exacerbates comorbid pain conditions. Nat Metab. 2021 Jun;3(6):762-773. doi: 10.1038/s42255-021-00410-x. Epub 2021 Jun 17. PMID: 34140694; PMCID: PMC8287645.

Wu P, Arris D, Grayson M, Hung CN, Ruparel S. Characterization of sensory neuronal subtypes innervating mouse tongue. PLoS One. 2018 Nov 8;13(11):e0207069. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0207069. PMID: 30408082; PMCID: PMC6224080.



  1. Dominic Arris, Vanessa Valenzuela, Max Grayson and Shivani Ruparel. Contribution of Peripheral Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) signaling in Oral Cancer Pain. Annual Meeting for Society for Neuroscience. 2018.
  1. Peter LoCoco, Ashley Wallace, Dominic Arris, and Kenneth Hargreaves. Oxidized Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Mediate Diabetic Pain. Annual Meeting for Society for Neuroscience. 2018.
  1. Dominic Arris and Shivani Ruparel. Regulation of Oral Tumorigenesis via Sensory Neuronal Release of PKM2. Annual Research Symposium of the Mays Cancer Center, UTHSCSA. 2018.
  1. Dominic Arris and Shivani Ruparel. Peripheral Neuronal Release of Soluble Factor Controls Oral Cancer Progress. Annual CBN Retreat, UTHSCSA. 2018.
  1. Dominic Arris, Sarah Hanna, Mayur Patil and Shivani Ruparel. Sensory Neuronal Regulation of Oral Tumorigenesis. Dental Science Symposium, UTHSCSA. 2018.
  1. Dominic Arris, Mathew Siviski and Igor Prudovsky. Cthrc1 Regulates Adipogenic Signaling. Maine Medical Center Research Institute. 2017.