Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center
Baylor College of Medicine
Breast cancer that spreads to the bone (bone metastasis) can occur years or even decades after breast cancer treatment ends. During this long period, cancer cells are likely to exist in a quiet state and without clinically detectable symptoms. The focus of Dr. Zhang’s BCRF research is to understand how dormant cancer cells resist conventional therapies, particularly in bones, and how to eradicate these cells to reduce the risk of bone metastasis. He and his team have established an innovative experimental system called "Bone-In-Culture Array", or BICA, which allows them to quickly examine the effects of multiple drugs on cancer cells in the context of bone. In the coming year, they will use the BICA system to study how cancer cells are kept in the dormant state in the bone and screen a large panel of FDA-approved drugs to identify potential drugs for their efficacy in prevention of bone metastases. These studies will provide valuable insight into the biological mechanisms behind the behavior and properties of dormant cancer cells in the bone and may identify drugs that are already FDA-approved and can be used to prevent breast cancer recurrence in the bone.
Dr. Zhang is an Assistant Professor at Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center of Baylor College of Medicine. He received his PhD degree from Columbia University . In his graduate work in Dr. Lawrence Chasin’s laboratory, he focused on the genomics of pre-mRNA splicing, and gained training in bioinformatics and molecular biology. He then joined Dr. Joan Massague’s laboratory at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he began to study cancer metastasis. He made several findings using an integrative strategy combining cancer genomics and experimental metastasis approaches. He was named McNair Scholar in 2011. He is also an awardee of the K99/R00 Pathways to Independence Grant from National Cancer Institute. At Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Zhang continues to investigate biological mechanisms and therapeutic strategies of breast cancer metastasis. His long-term goals are to eradicate latent cancer cells in distant organs, and to reduce the incidence of overt-metastases.