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BCRF Grantee Since


Shizhen (Emily) Wang, PhD

Assistant Professor
Department of Cancer Biology
Beckman Research Institute
City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center
Duarte, California

Current Research

Metastasis is the leading cause of mortality in breast cancer patients. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that influence distant metastasis of breast cancer and identifying biomarkers associated with metastatic disease progression will enhance clinicians’ ability to optimize and individualize treatment at an early stage to prospectively prevent metastasis and protect the target organs. The recently discovered microRNAs (miRNAs) play a crucial role in multiple cellular functions by regulating expression of their target genes, and are frequently dysregulated in breast cancer. Cancer-secreted miRNAs, encapsulated in microvesicles shed by cancer cells, are stably present in the extracellular environment of cancer cells and in the blood of cancer patients. In Dr. Wang’s previous study, the serum miRNAs of 42 patients were profiled using the deep sequencing technique, and exhibited patterns associated with the tumor biopathological features and patient clinical outcomes. Dr. Wang therefore hypothesizes that a set of blood-borne miRNAs are associated with breast cancer metastasis, and play active roles in the metastatic progression through affecting cancer and niche cells.

The immediate outcome of this project is the identification of blood-borne miRNA signatures that reflect the potential for or presence of metastasis and its inclination to a specific organ in breast cancer patients. These may enable accurate prediction and early diagnosis of organ-specific metastasis in breast cancer patients, allowing for preventive or therapeutic early treatments. Another major significance of Dr. Wang’s study is to provide fundamental groundwork and preclinical evidence for a novel strategy to prevent breast cancer metastasis by therapeutically targeting the malignant miRNA signals released by cancer cells.


Dr. Emily Wang received her doctorate in Molecular Virology from Nankai University in Tianjin, China. Her post-doctoral training took place at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center of Vanderbilt University under the tutelage of BCRF grantee, Dr. Carlos Arteaga.

During her fellowship in Dr. Arteaga’s breast cancer program, Dr. Wang investigated the cellular and molecular mechanisms of oncogenic signaling in breast carcinogenesis and published eight first-authored and several second-authored papers in the field of breast cancer. In September 2008, Dr. Wang began a tenure-track Assistant Professor position at the City of Hope Beckman Research Institute and Comprehensive Cancer Center.