American Cancer Society grantee Yibin Kang, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, has been recognized by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) with its 32nd Annual AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research. This award honors a researcher younger than 40 for meritorious achievements in the field of cancer research.
Dr. Kang is a recipient of an American Cancer Society grant for functional genomics analysis of breast cancer dormancy and progression. He was recognized by AACR at their 2012 annual meeting in Chicago for his research in furthering the molecular understanding of cancer metastasis – which is when cancer spreads from the part of the body where it started (the primary site) to other parts of the body. His research has defined the mechanisms governing the ability of breast cancer cells to migrate and colonize various locations throughout the body.
Nearly 90% of cancer mortality is due to tumor cells metastasizing in surrounding tissue, yet until recently this area of study was underdeveloped. Dr. Kang has discovered that certain tumor proteins are capable of altering the biological activities of various bone cells to facilitate metastasis. One such protein, JAG1 or “Jagged1,” promotes secondary tumor formation by stimulating tumor-promoting cellular responses in bone cells, causing degradation of the bone tissue and allowing an environment suitable for the growth of metastatic cancer cells.
Dr. Kang’s lab work has resulted in multiple patents that present significant opportunities for treating metastatic cancer cells. Dr. Kang’s lab has identified specific pathways (EGF, TGF beta, and Notch) that usher tumor cells to the surrounding tissue, causing metastasis. Identifying these pathways is critical, as pharmaceutical inhibitors have proven effective in blockading the procession of tumor cells, greatly reducing the potential for cancer metastasizing in vital organs.
In addition, Dr. Kang has discovered a completely novel gene, Metadherin, which has been found to promote metastasis and broad-spectrum chemo resistance in breast cancer. Better understanding this gene could also present new pathways to target with pharmaceutical therapies, greatly improving the prognosis for breast cancer patients.
Besides this groundbreaking, Society-funded work, Dr. Kang, who was a recipient of a Society Research Scholar Grant for 2006–2009, also serves as a reviewer for the Society’s peer review committee on Tumor Biology and Genomics.
Watch a video of Dr. Yibin Kang discussing his groundbreaking work and the importance of the funding he received from the American Cancer Society.