Titles and Affiliations

Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology

Research area

Targeting metastatic breast cancer at the nexus of cancer progression and immune response.


Metastatic breast cancer (MBC)—when breast cancer spreads throughout the body—is incurable and responsible for the majority of breast cancer deaths. Dr. Kang and his team identified a protein, Metadherin (MTDH), that is generated by many breast tumors and its presence predicts poor outcome for patients. The team found that MTDH promotes both metastasis and chemo-resistance in cancer cells and helps tumors evade the immune system, making it a promising target for therapy. It is also present in immune cells, but the role of MTDH in immune cells is unknown. Dr. Kang’s team will explore this further to see if blocking MTDH could help promote an anti-tumor response by the immune system. The findings from this research may pave the way toward a new immunotherapy approach for metastatic breast cancer. 

Progress Thus Far

The team developed a drug to target MTDH and found that it dramatically inhibits breast cancer progression and metastasis by enhancing immune cell infiltration into the tumors. This occurs in part because MTDH helps suppress antigen presentation by the tumor cells. This is a process by which all cells in the body share their identities with immune cells and is required for the immune cells to detect foreign or abnormal activity. The team also tested their MTDH drug in combination with anti-PD-1 therapy (a type of immunotherapy) and the two worked well together to suppress breast cancer progression. These results are exciting but do not answer the question of how MTDH inhibition might also affect the immune system. In recent studies, the team revealed that the presence of MTDH on host cells (non-tumor cells) plays a role in the tumor’s ability to evade the immune system.  

What’s next

In the coming year, the team will continue to perform experiments to identify the role of MTDH in immune cells. In laboratory models, they will compare how immune cells behave with and without MTDH, narrow down which immune cell populations are important for MTDH activity, and identify other molecular components that contribute to MTDH’s effects.   


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.

BCRF Investigator Since