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Mien-Chie Hung, PhD

Vice President for Basic Research
Professor and Chair, Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology
Director, Breast Cancer Basic Research Program
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas

Current Research

  • Seeking to improve patient outcomes by improving response to existing therapies and developing new ones.
     
  • Current research is focused on developing a novel approach to immunotherapy in breast cancer.
     
  • These studies may lead to alternative approaches to improving response to anti-PD-L1 therapies in breast cancer.

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive form of the disease, with no approved targeted therapies. Clinical trials with immunotherapies have shown benefit for some patients with TNBC, but the most patients receive very little benefit and may suffer severe side effects. Drs. Hung and Hortobagyi are conducting studies to employ novel approaches to improve response to immunotherapy agents.

Full Research Summary

New immunotherapies targeting the programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) have shown promising results in clinical trials for several cancers. However, only about 15-20 percent of breast cancer patients respond and there is an increased risk for developing autoimmune disorders from the therapy.

PD-L1 is a protein that is produced by many cell types including cancer cells. It works to regulate immune response by binding to its companion protein PD-1 on cancer fighting immune cells, thereby shutting down immune response. The normal functioning of this immune regulation can go awry in tumor cells, allowing tumors to escape immune surveillance and go undetected by immune cells that are capable of killing them. Therefore, it is imperative to develop better immunotherapy treatments.

Drs. Hung and Hortobagyi are exploring a novel approach to immune checkpoint therapy for the purpose of developing new PD-L1 targeted drugs, while also investigating the causes of resistance to these therapies in an effort to develop combination therapy to overcome the resistance.

In the last year, they identified new potential combination therapies and developed strategies to improve anti-PD-1 immunotherapy for breast cancer patients. They will continue to study the mechanisms of resistance to these agents over the next year.

Biography

Mien-Chie Hung, PhD is the Vice President for Basic Research, and Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and a basic scientist with a translational vision. Dr. Hung is a Program Leader for MDACC CCSG "Cell Biology and Signal Transduction" program. Since 2008, he has been Director of the Center for Biological Pathways at MDACC to coordinate biological pathway studies in cancers throughout the institution. Dr. Hung is internationally recognized for his work on signaling transduction pathways of tyrosine kinase growth factor receptors and targeted therapies for breast cancer. His group made a critical breakthrough in showing that the transmembrane tyrosine kinase receptor EGFR can translocate into the nucleus from the cell surface to stimulate cell proliferation and to induce resistance to anti-cancer therapy. This paradigm-shifting concept revolutionizes cell biology of the receptor tyrosine kinase and paves a new avenue for designing next generation of anti-cancer therapy. He has published nearly 400 peer-reviewed papers. Dr. Hung was inducted as an Academician of the Academia Sinica in Taiwan (2002) and a Member of the University of Texas Academy of Health Science Education (2006). In addition, he is a Member of the Scientific Advisory Council for Susan G. Komen and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2010), as well as recipient of the Presidential Award of Society of Chinese Bioscientists in America and The University of Texas MDACC LeMaistre Outstanding Achievement Award (2011).

BCRF Investigator Since

2000

Donor Recognition

The Blizzard Entertainment Award

Area(s) of Focus