Collin M. Blakely, MD, PhD

Non-small cell lung cancers are frequently driven by specific genetic alterations that can be targeted by precision medicine therapies. However, these therapies often result in only partial responses to treatment, allowing some cancer cells to survive and become fully resistant to therapy.  This ultimately limits patients' long-term survival.  Dr. Blakely focuses on a particular type of lung cancer that is driven by mutations in the EGFR gene.

Catherine C. Smith, MD

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is one of the deadliest blood cancers. Mutations in the FLT3 gene are the most common of all mutations in AML and are associated with poor outcomes in both adult and pediatric patients. Despite the importance of FLT3 mutations in AML, we still do not understand the way in which FLT3 is regulated and the functional impact of novel FLT3 mutations identified in recent large AML sequencing studies.

Linda T. Vo, PhD

Dr. Vo focuses on T cell-based cancer immunotherapy, such as chimeric antigen receptor “CAR” T cells, as a transformative therapeutic approach. While recent studies have demonstrated the efficacy of CAR-T cell therapy in treating certain leukemias and lymphomas, further advancements are required to broaden its therapeutic utility. Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) have the capacity to generate any cell type of the body and represent a potentially inexhaustible source of clinically useful cells.

Lan Wang, PhD

Dr. Wang studies tailed-anchored proteins, a class of membrane proteins that perform important physiological functions. Cells possess machinery that ensures the correct distribution of tail-anchored proteins to their specific organelle. Her research aims to understand how cells accurately distribute the tail-anchored proteins amongst their multiple organelles and what happens when such mechanisms fail.

Xin Zhou, PhD

Dr. Zhou is using a creative protein engineering approach to break the “size barrier” of protein studies. Precise understanding of cancer protein structures can greatly facilitate the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of cancer biology and guide the design of new drugs. Recently, electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM) rapidly emerged as a powerful tool to deliver high-resolution protein structures.

Rushika M. Perera, PhD

Cancer cells have a unique ability to rapidly and efficiently remodel their internal composition and metabolic dependencies in order to maintain accelerated growth, metastasize and resist anti-cancer therapies. A newly identified central regulator of this increased plasticity is an internal organelle called the lysosome. Through processing and recycling of a variety of macromolecules, the lysosome serves as an important regulator of cellular remodeling and as a source of fuel for cancer cell growth.

Ziyang Zhang, PhD

Dr. Zhang is developing a new form of cancer immunotherapy with improved safety and controllability. Redirecting the immune system to launch attacks on tumor cells has emerged as an extremely promising approach to fight cancer. One such strategy, named bispecific T cell engager antibody (BiTE) has shown remarkable efficacy against blood cancers, but it is also associated with severe toxicity.

Yichen Xu, PhD

Dr. Xu focuses on the estrogen receptor α (ERα), a nuclear hormone receptor that is mutated and hyperactivated in over 70% of breast cancers. Hormone therapy drugs, such as tamoxifen, which target classic ERα signaling are highly potent; however, many patients eventually develop drug resistance. His proposed research will address a previously unknown role of ERα in breast cancer progression and therapy resistance, and may identify a potential second-line therapy to treat breast cancer.