A photo of Nancy Ratner.

Nancy Ratner, PhD

  • Co-Director, Rasopathy Program
  • Program Leader, Cancer Biology and Neural Tumors Program
  • Beatrice C. Lampkin Chair, Cancer Biology
  • Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics



Neurofibromatosis is a very common genetic disorder affecting 1 out of 3,000 children and adults. NF1 patients can develop brain and nerve tumors that can compromise brain and nerve structure and function. We aim to pursue cancer research, and primarily study nerve tumors, with the goal of improving the quality of life of >110,000 people in the U.S., and many more worldwide.

My research interests include glial cell biology, intracellular signaling, preclinical therapeutics, and peripheral nerve tumorigenesis. My laboratory team and I share the goal of finding innovative treatments for neurofibromatosis by utilizing our knowledge of developmental biology together and levels of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and proteins in neurofibroma tumor and immune cell types as guides for drug selection and testing.

Some of the notable discoveries my team and I have made in our lab include: 1) developing and producing transcriptome data for investigating NF1 cells and nerve tumors and 2) pioneering the use of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MEK) inhibitors in a new and original preclinical model of the peripheral nerve tumor. This research led clinicians to pursue clinical trials, and in 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval for use of MEK inhibitors as a therapy for plexiform neurofibromas.

I also recruit and mentor neuro-oncology and rasopathy faculty at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and mentor students and postdoctoral fellows in my laboratory.

Throughout my career, I received awards, including:

  • von Recklinghausen award, the highest honor of the Children’s Tumor Foundation, 2010
  • Jacob Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award from the National Institute of Neurologic Disease and Stroke (NINDS) at the National Institutes of Health, 2014 - 2021
  • Team Science award, Children’s Tumor Foundation, 2016

I joined the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center team in 2006. I now have more than 30 years of experience in Schwann cell biology and cancer research. My research has been consistently funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense Program on Neurofibromatosis and other agencies. My work has been published in numerous journals, including Cancer Cell, Cell Reports, Scientific Reports, Cancer Research, PNAS and Clinical Cancer Research.

PhD: Indiana University, 1982.

BA: Brown University, 1975.

Fellowship: Washington University St. Louis, 1982-1987.


Preclinical testing in neurofibromatosis


Genetic mutations in tumor suppressor genes; development and tumorigenesis of the nervous system; peripheral NF1, NF2

Research Areas

Experimental Hematology and Cancer Biology, Cancer and Blood Diseases


C5aR plus MEK inhibition durably targets the tumor milieu and reveals tumor cell phagocytosis. Perrino, MR; Ahmari, N; Hall, A; Jackson, M; Na, Y; Pundavela, J; Szabo, S; Woodruff, TM; Dombi, E; Kim, MO; Köhl, J; Wu, J; Ratner, N. Life Science Alliance. 2024; 7:e202302229.

Schwann cells modulate nociception in neurofibromatosis 1. Raut, NG R; Maile, LA; Oswalt, LM; Mitxelena, I; Adlakha, A; Sprague, KL; Rupert, AR; Bokros, L; Hofmann, MC; Patritti-Cram, J; Jankowski, MP; Wasserman, RC; Siegel, R; Stockwell, MS. JCI insight. 2024; 9:e171275.

Shedding New Light: Novel Therapies for Common Disorders in Children with Neurofibromatosis Type I. Pillay-Smiley, N; Fletcher, JS; de Blank, P; Ratner, N. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 2023; 70:937-950.

Endoglin, a Novel Biomarker and Therapeutical Target to Prevent Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor Growth and Metastasis. Gonzalez-Muñoz, T; Giannatale, AD; García-Silva, S; Santos, V; Sanchez-Redondo, S; Savini, C; Graña-Castro, O; Blanco-Aparicio, C; Fischer, S; De Wever, O; Ratner, N; Yohay, K; Theuer, CP; Peinado, H. Clinical Cancer Research. 2023; 29:3744-3758.

Motor Function and Physiology in Youth With Neurofibromatosis Type 1. Doherty, AC; Huddleston, DA; Horn, PS; Ratner, N; Simpson, BN; Schorry, EK; Aschbacher-Smith, L; Prada, CE; Gilbert, DL. Pediatric Neurology. 2023; 143:34-43.

Combining SOS1 and MEK Inhibitors in a Murine Model of Plexiform Neurofibroma Results in Tumor Shrinkage. Jackson, M; Ahmari, N; Wu, J; Rizvi, TA; Fugate, E; Kim, MO; Dombi, E; Arnhof, H; Boehmelt, G; Düchs, MJ; Long, CJ; Maier, U; Trapani, F; Hofmann, MH; Ratner, N. The Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics. 2023; 385:106-116.

Abstract IA17: Use of RAS isoforms in nerve tumors. Ratner, N; Hu, L; Pundavela, J; Epstein, JA. Molecular cancer research : MCR. 2023; 21:ia17.

Runx1/3-driven adaptive endoplasmic reticulum stress pathways contribute to neurofibromagenesis. Na, Y; Hall, A; Yu, Y; Hu, L; Choi, K; Burgard, JA; Szabo, S; Huang, G; Ratner, N; Wu, J. Oncogene: Including Oncogene Reviews. 2023; 42:1038-1047.

Merlin tumor suppressor function is regulated by PIP2-mediated dimerization. Hennigan, RF; Thomson, CS; Stachowski, K; Nassar, N; Ratner, N. PloS one. 2023; 18:e0281876.

Deep genomic analysis of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor cell lines challenges current malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor diagnosis. Magallón-Lorenz, M; Terribas, E; Ortega-Bertran, S; Creus-Bachiller, E; Fernández, M; Requena, G; Rosas, I; Mazuelas, H; Uriarte-Arrazola, I; Negro, A; Reuss, D; Carrió, M; Gel, B; Serra, E. iScience. 2023; 26:106096.

From the Blog

Inhibiting MEK Protein Shrinks NF1 Plexiform Tumors

Inhibiting MEK Protein Shrinks NF1 Plexiform Tumors

Nancy Ratner, PhD6/30/2019