Mien-Chie Hung, PhD
China Medical University
To identify novel therapeutic strategies against breast cancer by blocking tumor-initiating capabilities.
Breast cancer patients have varied responses to therapies with some patients experiencing a sustained benefit while others only experience side effects with little benefit. One reason for the variation in response to immune or other therapies is that breast cancer cells vary between different tumors but also within a single tumor. This intratumor heterogeneity is driven in part by cancer stem cells (CSCs), a small population of cells within the tumor that are highly resistant to therapy and capable of initiating new tumor formation. Since CSC-like cells contribute to tumorigenesis and immune evasion, they are thought to be drivers of breast cancer metastasis—as such, they are ideal targets for cancer treatment. Drs. Hung and Hortobagyi discovered a unique function of a common protein called human ribonuclease 1 (hRNase1) in promoting this “stemlike” quality. They will build on this discovery to develop novel strategies for treating breast cancer patients through the identification of therapeutic targets that can be used to block CSC-like characteristics.
In the last year, Drs. Hung and Hortobagyi have examined the mechanism by which the hRNase1 protein mediates breast tumor initiation. They showed that hRNase1 binds to the EphA4 receptor on breast cells thereby inducing tumor initiation and CSC-like properties in these cells. Furthermore, the team discovered the precise location on both proteins by which they interact and showed that blocking their interaction can suppress tumorigenesis.
Drs. Hung and Hortobagyi will continue to investigate the targeting of the hRNase1-EphA4 axis as a promising therapeutic strategy to prevent breast cancer initiation. They will also determine whether hRNase1, which circulates in the blood, can serve as a non-invasive biomarker to stratify patients for targeted therapy.
Mien-Chie Hung, Ph.D. is the President for China Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan. He was 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. He received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the National Taiwan University and his PhD from Brandeis University. After completing postdoctoral training with Dr. Robert A. Weinberg at the Whitehead Institute/Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Hung was recruited to MD Anderson in 1986.
Dr. Hung is internationally recognized for his studies of signal transduction pathways regulated by tyrosine kinase growth factor receptors, such as EGFR and HER-2/neu, as well as molecular mechanisms of tumorigenesis. He was a member of the Selection Committee for the Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science category, and the 2016 Pezcoller Foundation-AACR Award.
Dr. Hung also serves as an editorial member for many journals in cancer research to evaluate quality of submission. Notable, he is one of the founding Editorial Members for Cancer Cell, serves as Editor-in-chief for American Journal for Cancer Research (2015-2017) and Senior Editor for Cancer Research (American Association for Cancer Research, 2018-2021). Dr. Hung was inducted as an Academician of the Academia Sinica in Taiwan in 2002, and was selected as a Fellow in Biological Sciences section, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS Fellow) in 2010. He served as President for the Society of Chinese Bioscientists in America (SCBA) from 2004-2005 and is also the recipient of SCBA’s Presidential Award in 2011 and Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. In addition, Dr. Hung was awarded with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center's LeMaistre Outstanding Achievement Award in 2011 as well as a Faculty Achievement Award in Education (1993) and in Basic Research (1998 & 2017). Dr. Hung is a recipient of prestigious educational awards including 2017 UT System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award and John P. McGovern Outstanding Teacher Award University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston. Dr. Hung is the only faculty who received the latter award four times.
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