C. Bast, M.D.
Vice President, Translational Research
Dr. Bast is Vice President for Translational Research at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center where he holds the Harry Carothers Wiess Distinguished University Chair for Cancer Research. His office facilitates translation of new strategies, drugs and devices from the laboratory to the clinic, as well as the movement of human material and data from the clinic to laboratory. He received his education at Wesleyan University, Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins Hospital, the National Cancer Institute, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Before joining the MD Anderson faculty in 1994 he served on the faculties of Harvard Medical School and Duke University Medical Center where he was Director of the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center.
In addition to leading the Office of Translational Research, Dr.
Bast cares for patients with gynecologic and breast cancer and has
been named to Best Doctors in America and America’s Top Physicians. In
medical science, Dr. Bast is best known for discovering the CA125
biomarker for ovarian cancer that has contributed to the care of
hundreds of thousands of women with ovarian cancer world-wide and
promises to provide a critical component of the first effective
strategy for early detection of ovarian cancer. His laboratory is
attempting to develop a better screening strategy for ovarian cancer,
more effective treatment with paclitaxel using targeted therapy and
methods to eliminate dormant autophagic cancer cells. Dr. Bast has
authored or co-authored more than 690 articles, editorials and
chapters and edited the textbook Cancer Medicine. He has been
recognized as a Highly Cited Investigator (top 0.5%) by the Institute
for Scientific Information with an H Score of 104. Dr. Bast has
mentored more than 85 postdoctoral fellows, visiting investigators,
graduate and medical students, and coordinates the Physician-Scientist
and Clinician-Investigator Programs at MD Anderson.
At a national level, Dr. Bast was a member and chair of the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration. He has served on three study sections of the National Cancer Institute, as well as scientific advisory committees of 12 NCI-designated US Cancer Centers, the Cancer Center Karolinska, the Deutsche Krebshilfe and the Berlin Institute of Health. He has served as a chair of the tumor markers expert panel of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the scientific advisory boards of the V Foundation and Ovarian Cancer Action in the United Kingdom. Dr. Bast also serves on scientific advisory committees for the TJ Martell Foundation and the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance.
Zhen Lu, M.D.
Dr. Lu is an associate professor in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and an Associate Member of the MD Anderson-UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS). Dr. Lu earned her Master’s and MD degree from China, where she was involved with all aspects of teaching. She moved to the United States and obtained her second Master's degree in Biology from The University of Memphis. After moving to Houston in 2002, she has been an active member in Dr. Bast’s group where her research aims to elucidate the function of ARHI (DIRAS3) and develop novel therapeutic approaches for ovarian cancer. In collaboration with Dr. Bast, Dr. Lu provides guidance to all trainees in the research group.
Dr. Lu’s research has focused on ovarian cancer tumorigenesis and function of tumor suppressors. Our group has identified ARHI (DIRAS3), an imprinted tumor suppressor gene that is downregulated in 60% of ovarian cancers. Re-expression of ARHI blocks cell growth, inhibits motility, induces autophagy and establishes tumor dormancy. By re-expressing ARHI from a doxycycline-inducible promoter in ovarian cancer xenografts, Dr. Lu developed the first inducible model for tumor dormancy in ovarian cancer, permitting evaluation of novel anti-autophagic therapy to eliminate dormant ovarian cancer cells. In addition to studying tumor dormancy, Dr. Lu has also identified key regulators of paclitaxel resistance, and novel biomarkers for the early detection of ovarian cancer. Over the last 17 years, Dr. Lu has served as Co-Investigator and Co-principal Investigator on numerous NIH-funded grants and has published more than 40 peer-reviewed articles.
Alicia Blessing Bollu, Ph.D.
Alicia is an Odyssey Fellow in Dr. Bast's Laboratory. Her project
title is Ovarian Cancer Cells Exhibit Substantially Enhanced
Sensitivity to Crizotinib. One of the major factors contributing to
poor outcomes for patients with ovarian cancer is the persistence of
dormant, drug resistant cancer cells after primary surgery and
chemotherapy. Previous studies reported that the outgrowth of small,
poorly vascularized nodules of dormant metastatic ovarian cancer cells
found on the peritoneal surface at “second look” operations following
primary surgery and chemotherapy occurs with a median of 16 months,
but disease can recur after periods as long as 10 years. Consequently,
the residual ovarian cancer cells remaining after surgery and
chemotherapy are not growing exponentially and are considered dormant.
Our laboratory has previously demonstrated that DIRAS3 (ARHI) is a
master switch that induces both autophagy and tumor dormancy in human
ovarian cancer xenografts and is upregulated in >80% of positive
“second look” operations consistently associated with evidence of
autophagy. Using a synthetic lethal siRNA screen, we identified
several kinases that regulate growth and survival of ovarian cancer
cells undergoing DIRAS3-induced autophagy; with the top three having
already FDA-approved inhibitors. Thus, the central hypothesis of her
project is that DIRAS3 regulates tumor dormancy and induces autophagy
and that dormant, autophagic cancer cells can then be selectively
targeted by one of these inhibitors.
Dengxuan Fan, M.D.
Jing Guo, M.D.
Jing received her M.D. from Hebei Medical University and M.S. in Obstetrics and Gynecology from Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in 2015. After graduation, she trained and practiced as an obstetrician and gynecologist in Shanghai, China. In Dr. Bast’s Laboratory, she is currently testing a panel of biomarkers (that include CA125 plus auto-antibodies) to see if it is more sensitive than using the CA125 biomarker alone, with a goal of identifying novel screening candidates for early detection of ovarian cancer.
Xiaowen Liang, Ph.D.
Xiaowen’s research focuses on protein-biomolecule interactions, and kinetics and thermodynamics of binding.
Weiqun (Maggie) Mao, B.S.
Senior Research Assistant
Maggie is a senior research assistant in Dr. Bast’s Lab, studying autophagy and dormancy of ovarian cancer.
Lan Pang, B.S.
Senior Research Assistant
Lan is a senior research assistant, graduated from College of Animal Science at Southwest University in China, working on “Early detection of ovarian cancer using magnetic relaxometry and detection of imaging of nanoparticles in vivo.”
Philip Rask, B.S.
Research Assistant I
A native Houstonian, Philip earned his BS in biology from the University of Houston - Clear Lake. As a research assistant in the Bast Lab, Philip works primarily on in vivo studies, as well as projects studying the role of autophagy in dormant ovarian cancer.
Janice Santiago, Ph.D.
Janice completed her M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences Campus. In 2015, she received her Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from The University of Texas MD Anderson / UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Janice’s dissertation work focused on the contribution of autophagy to chemoresistance in osteosarcoma. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Bast. Her studies are focused on determining the role of DIRAS3, an important regulator of autophagy and tumor dormancy in ovarian cancer. She has also found that olaparib, an FDA-approved PARP inhibitor, induces autophagy that enhances drug resistance in ovarian cancer cells. Having elucidated the mechanism by which olaparib induces autophagy, she is currently combining olaparib with FDA approved drugs that are selectively toxic for autophagic cancer cells, producing additive and synergistic antitumor activity.
Hailing Yang, Ph.D.
Coordinator, Research Laboratory
Hailing Yang is the Laboratory Coordinator. She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Texas MD Anderson / UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Her project focuses on the treatment of ovarian cancer using kinase inhibitors.
Bast Lab Alumni
Blessing Bollu, Alicia
Mao, Weiqun (Maggie)
Romero Noguera, Ignacio
Sutton, Margie Nicole
Yang, Wei-Lei (William)
Ahmed, Ahmed Ashour
Lee, Keun Ho
Lipska, Beata Stefania
Abou Ghalia, Azza
Bae, Duk Soo
Varela, Carly L.
Soisson, Andrew Patrick