Lab In The News
Dr. Rugang Zhang Named Leader of the Immunology, Microenvironment & Metastasis Program of The Wistar Institute Cancer Center
The Immunology, Microenvironment and Metastasis (IMM) Program explores the basic mechanisms of host-tumor interactions, immune responses and metastatic dissemination to create novel translational avenues for cancer diagnosis and therapy such as immunotherapy.
The Zhang Laboratory
The Zhang laboratory studies ovarian cancer biology with the goal of developing novel therapeutic approaches to combat the disease with precision. In particular, the lab investigates how alterations in epigenetics— or the heritable changes that affects gene expression without alterations in the underlying DNA sequence—contribute to epithelial ovarian cancer. The ultimate goal of this line of investigation is to leverage these newly gained mechanistic insights for developing new therapeutics in a personalized manner based on one’s unique genetic and/or pathway signatures.
The Zhang laboratory also investigates the mechanisms that underlie aging in normal mammalian cells and how this process is implicated in tissue aging or evaded by tumor cells during malignant transformation. In particular, the lab focuses on epigenetic and metabolic pathways that regulate the aging process. The overarching goal for identifying such mechanisms is the development of novel strategies to promote healthy aging and combat cancer.
Sergey Karakashev, Ph.D.
Jianhuang Lin, Ph.D.
Pingyu Liu, Ph.D.
Galina Semenova, M.D., Ph.D.
Shuai Wu, Ph.D.
Bo Zhao, Ph.D.
Xue Hao, Ph.D.
Wei Zhou, Ph.D.
Zhigang Tu, Ph.D. (2008 – 2013) Professor, Jiangsu University, China
Hua Li, M.D., Ph.D. (2009 – 2014)
Michael Amatangelo, Ph.D. (2012 – 2013) Senior Scientist, Celgene (NIH/NCI T32 and F32 Postdoctoral Fellowship)
Katherine Aird, Ph.D. (2010 – 2016) Assistant Professor, Penn State University (NIH/NCI T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship and K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award)
Benjamin G. Bitler, Ph.D. (2010 – 2016) Assistant Professor, University of Colorado (ACS Postdoctoral Fellowship and NIH/NCI K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award)
Hengrui Zhu, Ph.D. (2013 – 2017) Senior Scientist at Johnson & Johnson (OCRA Ann Schreiber Mentored Investigator)
Yuki Yokoyama, Ph.D. (2014 – 2016) Assistant Professor, Osaka University, Japan
Fee Bengsch, Ph.D. (2014 – 2015) Industry, Germany
Takeshi Fukumoto, M.D., Ph.D. (2016 – 2019) Assistant Professor, Kobe University, Japan
Timothy Nacarelli, Ph.D. (2016 – 2019) Investigator, GSK(NIH/NCI T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship)
Azat Garipov (2010 – 2014) Senior Medical Advisor, BIOCAD, Russia
Motivated candidates are encouraged to inquire about the positions below. Contact email@example.com.
Epigenetics of epithelial ovarian cancer
A major discovery in recent cancer genome-wide sequencing is the identification of significant genetic changes in chromatin-modifying genes. However, despite great strides in identifying the various epigenetic enzymes/factors involved in cancer, the translational application of these findings in cancer intervention remains to be explored. The Zhang lab will pursue these issues in the coming years by focusing on the epigenetic SWItch/Sucrose Non-Fermentable (SWI/SNF) and Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) complexes as proof of principles in the context of ovarian cancer.
a. Mechanism-guided therapeutic strategies for genetic alterations that affect the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex in epithelial ovarian cancer (such as ARID1A mutation in clear cell and endometrioid subtypes of ovarian cancer, and CARM1 amplification/overexpression in high-grade serous ovarian cancer).
b. Epigenetic approaches to chemotherapy resistance and cancer stemness in epithelial ovarian cancer.
c. Epigenetic approaches to primer for and/or synergize with immunological therapy in epithelial ovarian cancer.
d. PARP inhibitors resistance mechanism and approaches to sensitizing BRCA-proficient ovarian cancer to PARP inhibitors.
Epigenetic and metabolic basis of cellular senescence
Cellular senescence is a state of stable cell growth arrest that is accompanied by drastic molecular and phenotypic changes. Cellular senescence is a major contributor to tissue aging and plays a context-dependent role in tumor development. For example, cellular senescence is tumor suppressive and overcoming the senescence-associated cell growth arrest is a necessary step during cell transformation. In contrast to its tumor suppressive function, senescent cells can also promote cancer by acquiring a secretory phenotype and create a pro-tumorigenic microenvironment. The biological process of cellular senescence represents an ideal paradigm to examine the role of the DNA damage response, epigenetically determined chromatin structure, and metabolic reprogramming during tissue aging and cancer development.
a. Chromatin basis of the senescence-associated secretory phenotype.
b. Targeting senescence-associated metabolic vulnerability to develop cancer therapeutics.
c. Targeting senescence-associated immunological vulnerability to develop cancer therapeutics.
Karakashev S., Fukumoto, T., Zhao, B., Lin, J., Wu, S., Fatkhutdinov, N., Park, P.H., Semenova, G., Jean, S., Cadungog, M.G., et al. "EZH2 inhibition sensitizes CARM1-high, homologous recombination proficient ovarian cancers to PARP inhibition." Cancer Cell. in press
Nacarelli, T., Lau, L., Fukumoto, T., Zundell, J., Fatkhutdinov, N., Wu, S., Aird, K.M., Iwasaki, O., Kossenkov, A.V., Schultz, D., et al. "NAD+ metabolism governs the proinflammatory senescence-associated secretome." Nature Cell Biology. 2019 Mar;21(3):397-407. doi: 10.1038/s41556-019-0287-4. Epub 2019 Feb 18.
Bitler, B.G., Wu, S., Park, P.H., Hai, Y., Aird, K.M., Wang, Y., Zhai, Y., Kossenkov, A.V., Vara-Ailor, A., Rauscher, FJ. III., et al. "ARID1A-mutated ovarian cancers depend on HDAC6 activity." Nat Cell Biol. 2017 Aug;19(8):962-973. doi: 10.1038/ncb3582. Epub 2017 Jul 24.
Svoronos, N., Perales-Puchalt, A., Allegrezza, M.J., Rutkowski, M.R., Payne, K.K., Tesone, A.J., Nguyen, J.M., Curiel, T.J., Cadungog, M.G., Singhal, S., et al. “Tumor Cell-Independent Estrogen Signaling Drives Disease Progression through Mobilization of Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells.” Cancer Discov. 2017 Jan;7(1):72-85. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-16-0502. Epub 2016 Sep 30.
Bitler, B.G., Aird, K.M., Garipov, A., Li, H., Amatangelo, M., Kossenkov, A.V., Schultz, D.C., Liu, Q., Shih, IeM., Conejo-Garcia, J.R., et al. "Synthetic lethality by targeting EZH2 methyltransferase activity in ARID1A-mutated cancers." Nat Med. 2015 Mar;21(3):231-8. doi: 10.1038/nm.3799. Epub 2015 Feb 16.