Jing Lin Xie, PhD

Dr. Xie focuses on uncovering mutation-independent mechanisms of drug resistance in cancer. The prevalence of drug resistance in tumors – and collateral damage to healthy tissues – have been major roadblocks to improving the efficacy of chemotherapy. While current research has been focused on identifying mutations that confer cancer drug resistance, an emerging paradigm is that mutation-independent changes in the chromatin or proteins could be a hidden force that promotes the development of drug resistance.

John C. Janetzko, PhD

Dr. Janetzko studies G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), a class of membrane-embedded proteins that relay signals about hormone and neurotransmitter binding to the inside of the cell. Several types of cancer cells hijack these proteins by keeping them in an active state (constitutively turned “on”) in order to promote their growth and allow them to metastasize. The activated GPCR often becomes a target for another set of proteins, called GRKs (GPCR kinases).

Fangfei Qu, PhD

Dr. Qu is using Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC), a highly metastatic and lethal subtype of lung cancer, as a model to gain a better understanding of brain metastasis. Brain metastases are the most common type of intracranial tumors; they cause morbidity and mortality in a large number of cancer patients worldwide. The lack of preclinical models for brain metastasis has hampered our ability to better understand how primary tumors spread to the brain and grow there.

Kathryn R. Taylor, PhD

Dr. Taylor is investigating the impact of neural activity on pediatric high-grade glioma (pHGG) invasion. The innate ability of pHGGs to diffusely infiltrate healthy brain tissue is a classical hallmark of the disease, which represents a major contributor to the devastating prognosis. Using optogenetic techniques to stimulate neuronal activity, she will directly and noninvasively test the effect of activity-dependent secreted proteins on tumor cell invasion in human cancer cells and animal models.

Victoria Hung, PhD

Dr. Hung focuses on a central question in cell biology: how gene expression is spatially and temporally regulated to give rise to cell types and functions. Historically, the ribosome has been viewed as a molecular machine of invariant composition that passively and constitutively translates mRNA to protein. She is studying how phosphorylation of ribosomal components may endow ribosomes with specificity for certain transcripts and unique cellular functions.

Shaogeng (Steven) Tang, PhD

Dr. Tang is interested in discovering small-molecule inhibitor drugs that target human immune-checkpoint proteins, including programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1), using a combination of biochemistry, protein engineering, structural biology and immunology approaches. These small-molecule inhibitors would offer safety advantages resulting from their much shorter half-lives as compared to FDA-approved monoclonal antibody therapies, and possibly also offer efficacy advantages resulting from increased penetration and distribution within the tumor microenvironment.

Jennifer L. Caswell-Jin, MD

The development of HER2-targeted therapies over the past two decades has had tremendous positive impact on the lives of HER2-positive breast cancer patients. However, tumor resistance to these therapies remains a significant challenge: a sizable portion of patients with early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer develop recurrence, and the vast majority of patients with metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer eventually progress through treatment.

Jianjin Shi, PhD

Dr. Shi [Layton Family Fellow] is exploring how cells die in the nervous system in both healthy and disease states. He will focus on a novel and ill-defined form of cell death in the nerve cells and nerve fibers upon injury or stress. Resisting cell death is a hallmark of all cancers. Furthermore, many cancer chemotherapeutic drugs cause the death of nerve cells and nerve fibers, therefore inducing neurological diseases in cancer patients.

Leeat Yankielowicz-Keren, PhD

Dr. Yankielowicz-Keren studies cellular changes in breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in women in the U.S. Recently, a new multiplexed ion beam imaging (MIBI) technology has been introduced, which enables simultaneous imaging of dozens of proteins at a single cell level within a tissue section with high sensitivity.

Ryan A. Flynn, MD, PhD

Dr. Flynn aims to understand the interplay between cancer metabolism and RNA biology at the level of protein modifications, such as glycosylation. The use of metabolites to fuel cellular processes including cell division and protein synthesis are critical in both healthy tissue and cancer growth. This work will define glycosylation events that respond to and regulate the cancer state within RNA-based networks, thereby establishing new layers of regulation for future therapeutic targeting.