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BCRF Grantee Since


Area(s) of Focus

Zhen Fan, MD

Professor of Medicine
Department of Experimental Therapeutics
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas

Current Research

Thanks to BCRF support, Dr. Fan’s research team has developed several new transgenic laboratory models of mammary tumors. They used these laboratory models to investigate the interaction at genetic and molecular levels during breast cancer development between HER2, a well-known protein that causes breast cancer in patients, and breast tumor kinase, a less well-known protein for its role in breast cancer. Their findings may help understanding the roles of these proteins in breast cancer development and may help designing new therapeutic strategies for treating breast cancer.

In 2013-2014, Dr. Fan’s research team will test a novel hypothesis of re-routing patients’ immunity acquired from vaccination against common infectious diseases to cancer cells in breast cancer patients. They propose to kill breast cancer cells by “borrowing” pre-existing immunity in our body against infectious diseases. If successful, this innovative approach may lead to a breakthrough in prevention of breast cancer metastasis or recurrence in patients.

Mid-Year Summary

Dr. Fan’s research team is developing new therapeutic approaches to treat breast cancer patients with novel immunotherapy. They are testing a novel hypothesis to overcome cancer immune tolerance in breast cancer patients. BCRF funding was used to develop therapeutic strategies towards that direction. Success in this research will offer a new form of immunotherapy for patients.


Zhen Fan was awarded his medical degree in 1985 from the Medical School of Shanghai Medical University, one of the most prestigious medical schools in China. In 1988, Dr. Fan completed additional studies at the Graduate School of the same university. He received medical residency and oncology research training at Zhong Shan Hospital of Shanghai Medical University from 1988 to 1991. In 1991, he joined Dr. John Mendelsohn's laboratory as a post-doctoral research fellow at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and focused on studies of targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor as an approach for cancer therapy. From 1994 to 1995, he was a Research Associate in the Program of Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; in 1996, he joined the faculty as an Assistant Molecular Biologist in the Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In late 1996, Dr. Fan moved to Houston and joined the faculty of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, starting as a tenure-track assistant professor. He is currently professor of medicine and cancer biology in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics in the Division of Cancer Medicine at MD Anderson, where he directs an independent laboratory focused on research for better understanding of cancer cell signaling and metabolism and for development of new technologies of antibody engineering and therapeutics. Dr. Fan has made considerable contributions to our understanding of regulation of cancer cell signaling in breast cancer, which helps identification of novel targets for innovative breast cancer treatment. His research has been funded by multiple federal, state, and private sources of grants in the past decade.