Grantee Profile: Dr. Jun Chung

Dr. Jun Chung is on a mission. He knows his enemy (cancer), proudly wears reputable armor (lab coat), and always uses a trustworthy weapon (microscope). And he is very much on his way to understanding how to win the ultimate war on cancer one steady battle at a time.

Chung, a researcher at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, is one of six researchers in the state with studies funded by the American Cancer Society. His research team focuses on understanding mechanisms of metastasis, or the process of cancer spreading. Chung hopes to identify medications that work on blocking cancer cell survival, particularly in breast cancer.

“Breast cancer cells in the body are exposed to many lethal conditions, such as lack of oxygen and lack of nutrients,” says Chung. “However, these cancer cells overcome the odds, survivor, and indeed, grow. I want to know how they can do this.”

And there has been a revelation. Chung examined that a certain level correlates significantly with one subtype of breast cancer called Triple Negative Breast Cancer, or TNBC. Up to 37 percent of women with breast cancer have this subtype. It is identified as an aggressive and clinically less responsive type of breast cancer with extreme mortality rates.

“We hope that our research leads to therapeutic intervention and find the cure for this devastating subtype of breast cancer,” he says.

This particular research could also have other implications. Chung says the same targets applied to TNBC could possibly save the lives of other patients, including those with pancreatic and thyroid cancers.

And while a cure for breast cancer won’t be immediate, Chung says prevention and early detection remain a best strategy against cancer.  “While cancer represents a most formidable disease, it is largely preventable by changing lifestyle, such as eating habits and exercise.”

So, if wars are won with battles, then Chung is fighting every day. “I hope our research will provide the basis for clinical trial of novel therapy on aggressive subtype of cancers, like TNBC where no specific therapies are available,” said Chung. “Basic research is the first step to save lives of those patients who have no treatment options.”