Zachary Schug, Ph.D.

Zachary Schug, Ph.D.


The Schug Laboratory



Assistant Professor, Molecular & Cellular Oncogenesis Program, The Wistar Institute Cancer Center

About the Scientist

Schug is interested in investigating metabolic adaptation in cancer cells through the use of cell biology, biochemistry, liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS)-based lipidomics and metabolomics. 

After completing his B.S. in biology from Saint Joseph’s University, Schug continued his studies in Philadelphia and earned a Ph.D. in molecular cell biology from Thomas Jefferson University. In 2008, he began his postdoctoral studies at the Beatson Institute in Glasgow, U.K. Schug joined The Wistar Institute in 2016 as an assistant professor. He also holds adjunct faculty positions in the Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Drexel University.

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The Schug Laboratory

Alterations in the acquisition and metabolism of nutrients are now firmly recognized as hallmarks of cancer development. Many, if not all, oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes induce metabolic reprogramming in cancer cells through changes in the regulation of enzymes and transporters. These changes are necessary for cancer cells to meet the combined biomass and energy demands for growth and are only satisfied by increased capture and synthesis of cellular building blocks such as sugars, fats, and proteins. In addition, cancer cells often invade other tissues where the availability of certain nutrients is drastically different or grow so quickly that the blood supply, and the accessibility to oxygen and other nutrients that comes with it, becomes scarce. During these conditions of nutrient stress, many cancer cells will adapt and use alternative available resources to survive.

The Schug laboratory is interested in identifying and therapeutically targeting the metabolic changes that arise during the development of cancer and metastasis. They combine cell biology, biochemistry, metabolomics, lipidomics and genomics to uncover novel metabolic vulnerabilities in cancer. These targets are then further developed for use as effective therapeutic strategies for the improved treatment of cancer patients.


Postdoctoral Fellows

Michael Hulse, Ph.D.
Katelyn Miller, Ph.D.

Research Assistants

Seamus O’Connor
Katherine Pniewski

Graduate Student

Joshua Shaffer


Postdoctoral Fellow

Jessica Casciano, Ph.D., former postdoc (2016-2018); Licensing officer at Penn Center for Innovation.

Undergraduate Students

Aurora Dalipaj, Wistar Biomedical Technician Training Program (2018); Dental student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine.

Jessie Velasco, UPenn Summer Undergraduate Intern (2017); Ph.D. student in Biochemistry Department at University of Utah.

Jorgji Ndrecka, Wistar High School Summer Fellow (2016); Undergraduate student in University of the Sciences Philadelphia.

Julia Kurylec, Summer Undergraduate Intern (2019); Continuing undergraduate degree at Temple University.

Sara Papp, Undergraduate research student (2018-2020); Currently a Campus Screener at UT Health San Antonio.

Adam Cohen-Nowak, Wistar Institute (2016-2018); Medical Student at Thomas Jefferson University Medical College.

Selected Publications

Alicea, G., Rebecca, V., Goldman, A., Fane, M., Douglass, S., Behera, R., Webster, M., Kugel, C., Ecker, B., Caino, M., Kossenkov, A., Tang, H., Frederick, D., Flaherty, K., Xu, X., Liu, Q., Gabrilovich, D., Herlyn, M., Blair, I., Schug, Z., Speicher, D., Weeraratna, A. “Changes in Aged Fibroblast Lipid Metabolism Induce Age-Dependent Melanoma Cell Resistance to Targeted Therapy via the Fatty Acid Transporter FATP2Cancer Discov. 2020 Sep;10(9):1282-1295. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-20-0329. Epub 2020 Jun 4.

Zhao, S., Jang, C., Liu, J., Uehara, K., Gilbert, M., Izzo, L., Zeng, X., Trefely, S., Fernandez, S., Carrer, A., Miller, K., Schug, Z., Snyder, N., Gade, T., Titchenell, P., Rabinowitz, J., Wellen, K. “Dietary fructose feeds hepatic lipogenesis via microbiota-derived acetate” Nature. 2020 Mar;579(7800):586-591. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2101-7. Epub 2020 Mar 18.

Casciano, J.C., Perry, C., Cohen-Nowak, A.J., Miller, K.D., Vande Voorde, J., Zhang, Q., Chalmers, S., Sandison, M.E., Liu, Q., Hedley, A., et al. “MYC regulates fatty acid metabolism through a multigenic program in claudin-low triple negative breast cancer.” Br J Cancer. 2020 Jan 16. doi: 10.1038/s41416-019-0711-3.

Zou, Y., Watters, A., Cheng, N., Perry, C., Xu, K, Alicea, G., Parris, J., Baraban, E., Ray, P., Nayak, A., Xu, X., Herlyn, M. Murphy, M., Weeraratna, A, Schug, Z., Chen, Q. “Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids from Astrocytes Activate PPARγ Signaling in Cancer Cells to Promote Brain Metastasis” Cancer Discov. 2019 Dec;9(12):1720-1735. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-19-0270. Epub 2019 Oct 2.

Veglia, F., Tyurin, V.A., Blasi, M., De Leo, A., Kossenkov, A.V., Donthireddy, L., Schug, Z., Basu, S., Wang, F., Ricciotti, E., DiRusso, C., et al. “Fatty acid transport protein 2 reprograms neutrophils in cancer.” Nature. 2019 May;569(7754):73-78. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1118-2. Epub 2019 Apr 17.

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