Titles and Affiliations

Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor in Medicine
Professor of Medicine, Pharmacology and Medicinal Chemistry
Co-Director, Molecular Therapeutics Program
Director, Cancer Drug Discovery Program
University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Research area

Developing new therapies for triple-negative breast cancer.

Impact

Among the several subtypes of breast cancer, those classified as triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) are especially lethal due to their high likelihood of metastasis—spreading throughout the body. TNBC is characterized by what it lacks—hormone receptors and the HER2 protein—and as a result there is no FDA approved targeted therapy for TNBC outside of immunotherapy, which is only effective in some patients. Clinicians rely almost entirely on chemotherapies for tumor control, and new therapies are needed. Dr. Wang and his team are developing a completely new class of therapy for the treatment of TNBC that induces cancer cells to undergo rapid cell death, and they are currently working to bring these drugs into the clinic.

Progress Thus Far

The drugs generated by Dr. Wang’s team are highly effective in killing human breast cancer cells because they specifically eliminate a key protein for cancer cell survival, BRD4. The BRD4-targeting drugs have a unique function: while most drugs act to blocking the activity of the target protein, the drugs developed by this team instead induce degradation of BRD4, effectively eliminating the protein from the tumor cells, and tumor cells that relied on BRD4’s activity subsequently die. After evaluating several candidate compounds, Dr. Wang’s team is currently in the process of validating the effectiveness of these drugs in laboratory models. 

What’s next

The team will perform the pre-clinical studies required before a drug can move into a clinical trial. They are also working on identifying biomarkers to help guide patient selection in future clinical trials. 

Biography

Dr. Shaomeng Wang's primary research interest is the discovery and development of novel small-molecule therapeutics for the treatment of human breast cancer and other types of cancer focusing on targeting apoptosis and epigenetics pathways. Dr. Wang has built a comprehensive drug discovery program at the University of Michigan and has advanced four novel anticancer drugs into clinical development and several additional compounds into IND-enabling studies. Dr. Wang has published over 250 manuscripts and is an inventor of more than 50 patents and patent applications.

Dr. Wang's research program consists of three research laboratories. The computational/informatics laboratory has the expertise in lead identification and lead optimization using structure-based methods and informatics. The chemistry laboratory has the capability of synthesizing complex small molecule ligands. The biology/biochemistry/pharmacology laboratory has the capability and expertise for assay development, in-depth molecular mechanism studies and evaluations of the biological activity of new compounds in relevant biochemical assays and laboratory models of human cancer, as well as in vivo pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamic analysis of these compounds.

BCRF Investigator Since

2001

Areas of Focus