Claudia Benavente_200px

Claudia Benavente, PhD

Assistant Professor

Dr. Claudia Benavente studied Molecular Biotechnology Engineering at Universidad de Chile where her interest in pursuing cancer research first started. To further her studies, she came to the US to pursue a doctoral degree in Cancer Biology at The University of Arizona as a Fulbright scholar. She then moved on as a postdoctoral fellow to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN where she became familiar with childhood solid tumors. For the past two years, Professor Benavente has been an Assistant Professor at the Departments of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Developmental and Cell Biology at UCI.

2018 – 2020 AACR-Aflac Career Development Award for Pediatric Cancer Research
2013 – 2017 NIH Pathway to Independence Award
2003 – 2005 Fulbright Scholar

Dr. Benavente’s research focuses on understanding how pediatric tumors form in order to design new ways to treat them. Her research aims to understand how genes are normally controlled in developing tissues and how these processes (epigenetics) are perturbed to facilitate cancer to arise. This information guides her in the development of new therapies. Dr. Benavente focuses on retinoblastoma and osteosarcoma – the third and eighth most common forms of childhood cancers.

Her research has a direct effect on patients with these specific forms of cancers as her efforts focus on identifying novel therapeutic targets for these cancers. The gene at the center of her studies (RB1) is responsible for causing retinoblastoma and increasing osteosarcoma’s malignancy and is also commonly affected in virtually all cancers (pediatric and adult). As we learn how mutations in this gene – and the pathway it controls – cause cancer in children, we also increase our understanding of adult cancers and take a step closer to new cures.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Benavente Lab.


18. Wang S, Drummond ML, Guerrero-Juarez CF, Tarapore E, MacLean AL, Stabell AR, Wu SC, Gutierrez G, That BT, Benavente CA, Nie Q, Atwood SX. (2020) Single cell transcriptomics of human epidermis reveals basal stem cell transition states. Nature Communications. In press. bioRxiv, 784579; doi:
17. Zocchi L, Wu SC, Benavente CA. (2020). Heavenly HELLS? – A potential new therapeutic target for retinoblastoma. Oncoscience, 7:23-15. PMC7217136
16. Zocchi L, Mehta A, Wu SC, Wu J, Gu Y, Wang J, Suh S, Spitale RC, Benavente CA. (2020). Chromatin remodeling protein HELLS is critical for retinoblastoma tumor initiation and progression. Oncogenesis, 9:25. PMC7028996.
15. Zocchi, L., Benavente, C. A. (2018) DNA repair and epigenetic regulation in cancer (Ch. 18). Molecular Medicines for Cancer: Concepts and Applications of Nanotechnology. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis Group.
14. Wu SC, Benavente CA. Chromatin remodeling protein HELLS is upregulated by inactivation of the RB-E2F pathway and is dispensable for osteosarcoma tumorigenesis. (2018) Oncotarget, 9(66):32580-32592. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.25953. PMC6135699.
13. Zocchi L., Wu S.C., Wu J., Hayama K., Benavente, C.A. (2018) The Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor Flavopiridol (Alvocidib) Inhibits Metastasis of Human Osteosarcoma Cells. Oncotarget, 9(34):23505-23518. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.25239. PMC5955096.
12. Aldiri I, Ajioka I, Beisi X, Zhang J, Chen X, Benavente C, Finkelstein D, Johnson D, Akiyama J, Pennacchio L, Dyer MA. Brg1 coordinates multiple processes during retinogenesis and is a tumor suppressor in retinoblastoma. (2015) Development 142(23):4092-106.
11. Benavente CA, Dyer MA. Genetically engineered mouse and orthotopic human tumor xenograft models of retinoblastoma. (2015) Methods in Molecular Biology, Humana Press 1267:307-17.
10. Benavente CA, Dyer MA. Genetics and epigenetics of human retinoblastoma. (2015) Annual Reviews of Pathology: Mechanisms of Disease 10:547-562.
9. Benavente CA, Finkelstein D, Johnson DA, Marine JC, Ashery-Padan R, Dyer MA. Chromatin remodelers HELLS and UHRF1 mediate the epigenetic deregulation of genes that drive retinoblastoma tumor progression. (2014) Oncotargets 5(20): 9594-608.
8. Stewart E, Goshorn DR, Bradley C. Parker M, Ma X, Griffiths LM, Benavente CA, Twarog NR, Miller GM, Caufield W, Freeman BB, Bahrami A, Pappo A, Wu J, Loh A, Karlström A, Krafcik F, Calabrese C, Gordon B, Tsurkan L, Hatfield MJ, Potter PM, Snyder S, Thiagarajan S, Shirinifard A, Sablauer A, Nagahawatte P, Rusch M, Hedlund E, Easton J, Shurtleff S, Mardis ER, Wilson RK, Zhang J, Downing J, Shelat A, Dyer MA. Targeting the DNA repair pathway in Ewing sarcoma. (2014) Cell Reports 9, 829–840.
7. Benavente CA, McEvoy JD, Finkelstein D, Wei L, Kang G, Wang Y, Neale G, Ragsdale S, Valentine V, Bahrami A , Temirov J, Pounds S, Zhang J, Dyer MA. Cross-species genomic and epigenomic landscape of retinoblastoma. (2013) Oncotarget 4(6): 844-859.
6. Zhang J*, Benavente CA*, McEvoy J*, Flores-Otero J*, Ding L, Chen X, Ulyanov A, Wu G, Wilson M, Wang J, Brennan R, Rusch M, Manning AL, Ma J, Easton J, Shurtleff S, Mullighan C, Pounds S, Mukatira S, Gupta P, Neale G, Zhao D, Lu C, Fulton RS, Fulton LL, Hong X, Dooling DJ, Ochoa K, Naeve C, Dyson NJ, Mardis ER, Bahrami A, Ellison D, Wilson RK, Downing J and Dyer MA. A Novel Retinoblastoma Therapy from Genomic and Epigenetic Analyses. (2012) Nature, 481, 329-334. doi: 10.1038/nature10733. Faculty of 1000 (F1000)
5. Benavente CA, Schnell SA, Jacobson EL. Effects of niacin restriction on Sirtuin and PARP responses to photodamage. (2012) PLoS ONE 7(7): e42276. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042276
4. Bermudez Y, Benavente CA, Meyer RG, Coyle WR, Jacobson MK, Jacobson EL. Nicotinic Acid Receptor Abnormalities in Human Skin Cancer: Implications for a Role in Epidermal Differentiation. (2011) PLoS ONE 6(5): e20487. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020487
3. Benavente CA, Jacobson MK, Jacobson EL. NAD in skin: therapeutic approaches for niacin. (2009) Current Pharmaceutical Design 15(1): 29-38.
2. Benavente CA, Jacobson EL.Niacin restriction upregulates NADPH oxidase and ROS in human keratinocytes. (2008) Free Radical Biology and Medicine Feb 15; 44(4): 527-37.
1. Benavente CA, Conget P, Sierralta W, Minguell JJ. Subcellular distribution and mitogenic effect of basic fibroblast growth factor in mesenchymal uncommitted stem cells. (2003) Growth Factors Jun; 21(2): 87-94.
American Association for Cancer Research – Aflac Inc.
NIH/NCI CA229696
American Cancer Society – Research Scholar Grant

B.S., Universidad de Chile, 2001, Molecular Biotechnology Engineering
M.S., Universidad de Chile, 2002, Molecular Biotechnology Engineering
Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2007, Cancer Biology