Dominic Arris

Graduate Student

Ph.D IBMS Physiology and Pharmacology Discipline

Lab Association:
Robert Hromas, MD


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


Cancer is the #1, non-communicable cause of pediatric deaths worldwide. Malignancies that arise from connective tissues – better known as sarcomas – make up nearly 10% of these patients diagnosed with childhood cancers. These cancers require multimodal treatment paradigms that are commonly disfiguring, painful, and still have a high risk of the disease recurring. Virtually all patients that suffer recurrence will die – highlighting the importance of developing novel therapies that are more effective and less toxic. To this end, informed explorations into the unique biology of these childhood malignacies are critical and necessary.

My dissertation focuses on exploring the molecular biology of common pediatric soft-tissue sarcomas. Specifically, I am studying the role of ATR and replication stress in fusion-positive rhabdomyosarcomas. The translocation causing these cancers results in a fusion oncoprotein, PAX3-FOXO1, that disrupts the BAF histone remodeling complex. This disruption is marked by the jettisoning of the SMARCB1 protein from this complex, causing massive replication stress which is dependent on ATR to resolve. Of note, we have found that targeting ATR results in synthetic lethality for these cancers. Using cell survival assays, iPOND, DNA fiber analysis, confocal immunofluorescence, and co-immunoprecipitation experiments we will characterize the role of SMARCB1 in the normal and neoplastic biology of these cancers, and how ATR compensates for that loss.

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.