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.

Kara L. McKinley, PhD

Dr. McKinley studies how cells change their shape and behavior to build the complex structures that comprise mammalian organs. Cellular behaviors that occur during embryonic development are frequently co-opted by cancer cells during tumorigenesis and metastasis. Her goal is to understand how the machinery within cells drives changes in tissue architecture in a developmental context, generating new insights into how these cellular processes are corrupted during cancer progression.

Vladislav Belyy, PhD

Dr. Belyy studies how cancerous cells bypass normal signaling pathways and continue to grow uncontrollably, instead of either repairing themselves or dying in response to “unfolded protein stress.” Under these conditions, normal cells have evolved to sense this type of stress and either fix the problem or, if the fix fails, die in a controlled manner to protect the rest of the organism.