Titles and Affiliations

Director, Methodist Cancer Center
Professor, Weill Cornell Medical College
Professor and Emily Herrmann Chair in Cancer Research, Houston Methodist Hospital
The Methodist Hospital Research Institute
Houston, Texas

Research area

To identify and test potential drug targets for the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer.

Impact

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer and while new immunotherapy drugs have shown some effectiveness in these patients, the response rate remains low. Dr. Chang and her team are testing the hypothesis that modification of the tumor microenvironment (the environment surrounding a tumor) can dramatically improve the response to immune-based novel therapies. Their work may reveal new targeted therapeutic strategies for TNBC patients, who have poor outcomes due to high rates of recurrence, metastatic spread, and lack of approved targeted therapies.  

Progress Thus Far

Using previously developed state-of-the-art TNBC laboratory models, Dr. Chang and her team have shown that targeting interleukin 12 (IL12), a component of the tumor microenvironment, can make tumors more responsive to immunotherapies. In other studies, she and her colleagues have discovered a novel drug, L-NMMA, that targets a molecule known to promote tumor growth and metastasis. They are evaluating the efficacy of combining L-NMMA with another targeted drug, alpelisib (PIQRAY®) to treat TNBC. Preliminary studies indicate that this combination plus chemotherapy is an effective therapeutic approach to treat metaplastic breast cancer, the most aggressive subtype of TNBC.

What’s next

She and her team will continue to study the role of IL12 in response to immunotherapy to identify strategies to improve immunotherapy treatment for patients with TNBC. Also, Dr. Chang will continue to investigate the use of L-NMMA in combination with alpelisib and hopes to develop and conduct preclinical studies that will move to clinical evaluation in the near future.

Biography

Dr. Chang obtained medical degree from Cambridge University, England and completed fellowship in medical oncology at the Royal Marsden Hospital/Institute for Cancer Research. She was awarded research doctorate from the University of London. Breast cancer has been the focus of her research. She plans to improve the outcome of breast cancer patients by translating scientific discoveries directly into clinical practice and therapeutics. To this end, her most recent work has centered on identifying the mechanisms by which breast cancer stem cells survive chemotherapy, radiation, and hormonal therapy, leading to recurrences, relapses, and metastasis. Her recent work has focused on the intrinsic therapy resistance of cancer stem cells, resulting in several publications and international presentations. In addition, she holds several federal grants evaluating novel biologic agents and patents on new technological advances, especially in the area of high throughput molecular profiling.

BCRF Investigator Since

2002

Donor Recognition

The Estée Lauder Award

Areas of Focus