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Yibin Kang, PhD
Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology
Princeton, New Jersey
Goal: To improve metastatic breast cancer outcomes by identifying potential targets for drug discovery and development.
Impact: Dr. Kang has discovered a new mechanism by which breast cancer evades immune attack by overexpressing a protein called MTDH. Targeting this protein appears to dramatically inhibit the progression and spread of breast cancer.
What’s next: He and his team will continue to study MTDH and are now at work on a compound to block its activity.
Most breast cancer deaths are due to the metastatic spread of the disease. Metastasis occurs when cancer cells leave the primary site of cancer and form a new tumor in a different tissue. Dr. Kang has identified a protein (MTDH) that is overexpressed in most breast cancer tissues and is a strong predictor of poor outcome for breast cancer patients. His work could pave the way for a new immunotherapy targeting MTDH that would control the spread of breast cancer.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Studying biological mechanisms that drive metastasis—the spread of the primary tumor to distant organs—or mediate their resistance to chemotherapeutic agents.
Impact: Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is incurable and is responsible for the majority of breast cancer deaths. While there are treatments that can prolong life for patients with MBC, the disease still causes a great deal of pain and suffering. Dr. Kang’s work has been focused on immunotherapy, which has achieved great success in treating some highly aggressive cancers but has less impact in managing MBC. He aims to identify ways to boost anti-tumor immunity and improve response to immunotherapies.
Current investigation: Dr. Kang has discovered that metadherin (MTDH), a protein in breast tumors, is overexpressed in the majority of breast cancer tissues and is a strong predictor of poor outcome for patients. MTDH regulates immune surveillance and recognition of tumor cells by immune T cells.
What he’s learned so far: He and his team have found that targeting MTDH dramatically inhibits breast cancer progression and metastasis by enhancing immune cell infiltration, and that targeting both MTDH and anti-PD-1 therapy (a type of immunotherapy) synergistically suppresses the progression of breast cancer.
What’s next: Dr. Kang will investigate the molecular mechanism by which MTDH suppresses immune response to MBC and will also develop a potential new therapeutic compound to block the function of MTDH to enhance the efficacy of immunotherapy.
Yibin Kang is Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology and American Cancer Society Research Professor at Princeton University. He graduated from Fudan University in Shanghai in 1995. After completing his graduate study at Duke in 2000, Dr. Kang became an Irvington Institute postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Joan Massagué at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and pioneered a functional genomic approach to elucidate mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis. Dr. Kang joined the faculty of Princeton University as an Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology in 2004. He was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2010 and to Endowed Professor in 2012.
Dr. Kang’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis. His laboratory discovered new genes that promote recurrence, metastasis and chemoresistance of breast cancer, delineated tumor-stromal interactions that are essential for metastatic growth, and identified novel regulators with dual functions in mammary gland cell fate determination and tumor progression. Dr. Kang has published over 100 original articles in leading journals including Cell, Cancer Cell, and Nature Medicine. Dr. Kang's outstanding achievements have been recognized by many awards, including a Department of Defense Era of Hope Scholar Award (2006), the 2011 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Sciences (2011), the AACR Award for Outstanding Achievements in Cancer Research (2012), the Fidler Innovation Award from the Metastasis Research Society (2014) and the Fuller Albright Award from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (2014). Dr. Kang was elected as President of the Metastasis Research Society for the 2016-2018 term.