Dr. Yu is the Hubert L. & Olive Stringer Distinguished Chair in Basic Science, a Distinguished Teaching Professor, co-director of the CCSG Cancer Biology and Metastasis Program, and director of the Functional Genomics Core at MD Anderson. Dr. Yu’s innovative translational research on molecular mechanisms of breast cancer initiation, progression, metastasis, and therapeutic resistance has led to several successful multi-center phase I/II clinical trials. Over the past three decades, she led her team to perform high impact research and published more than 200 papers (h-Index 74), including papers in Nature, Nature Medicine, Nature Cell Biology, Nature Communications, Cell, Cancer Cell, Molecular Cell, Cancer Discovery, Science Translational Medicine, JCO., JNCI, Cell Res., etc. In her free time, Dr. Yu enjoys jazzercise, music, learn history, and the beauty of nature.
Graduate Research Assistant (GSBS)
Hao-Nien Chen is a Ph.D. student affiliated with the Department of Immunology at the GSBS who received his M.S. in Oral Biology at Nation Taiwan University. He is interested in the fields of cancer immunotherapy, uncovering the enigma of brain metastases and immune cells, and based on the finding, developing therapeutic strategies. Hao-Nien is working on projects in Dr. Yu’s Lab that focus on manipulating dendritic cells as a vaccine to fight against brain metastases. In his free time, Hao-Nien enjoys traveling, cooking cuisines from his hometown, Taiwan, and baking. He believes that scrumptious foods and desserts can cure a bad mood and bring joy to everyone.
Dr. Duan received his Ph.D. at the Shanghai Institutes of Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2015. He is mainly interested in dissecting the mechanism of cancer brain metastasis formation and how this process exploits the local CNS microenvironment. His research incorporates molecular and cellular biology, bioinformatics, high-throughput single-cell technology, and animal models to analyze brain metastasis at different stages and/or under different treatment or genetic backgrounds. His focus is on attenuating brain metastasis outgrowth through manipulating cytokine signaling, which is of great clinical significance because of the confounding reports on targeting either the cytokines or their respective receptors. This research may guide clinical applications in treating brain metastasis in the future. In his free time, Dr. Duan enjoys swimming, listening to music, and cooking.
Abigail is a Postbaccalaureate Trainee working under the Partners for Careers in Cancer Science and Medicine. She graduated with a degree in Cell and Molecular Biology B.S. from the University of St. Thomas. Abigail’s research investigates the role of Elastin Microfibril Interfacer 1 and other proteins on Cyclin Dependent Kinase 5 production, a protein hypothesized to have a role in breast cancer brain metastasis. In her free time, Abigail enjoys weightlifting and baking desserts.
Graduate Student Non-UTHSCH
Ya-Jing Jiang is a non-UTHSCH graduate student working in the Molecular & Cellular Oncology department. She is a visiting Ph.D. student from the Graduate Institute of Biomedical Sciences at China Medical University in Taiwan. She is interested in the field of cancer metastasis therapy, working on projects that focus on the role of metabolism dysregulation on brain metastasis dormancy and outgrowth and exploring its cellular mechanism. In her free time, Ya-Jing enjoys listening to music and trying different culinary delights.
Dr. Li received his Ph.D. degree at Chongqing Medical University in 2019. He works on exploring novel strategies for immunoprevention in breast cancer. In his free time, he enjoys running, reading, and traveling with his family.
Dr. Saito received his Ph.D. at The University of Tokyo in Japan. He is mainly working on pancreatic cancer projects that focus on the mechanisms of drug resistance in the tumor microenvironment. He is also interested in breast cancer brain metastasis. In his free time, he enjoys fishing, hiking and spending time with his wife and sons.
Graduate Research Assistant-GSBS
Alyssa is a Ph.D. student in the GSBS Cancer Biology Program. She graduated from The Ohio State University in 2022 with a bachelor's degree in cellular/molecular neuroscience and joined Dr. Yu's lab in 2023. Her research interests are to leverage the unique factors of the brain's microenvironment to create a better future for cancer patients with brain metastasis. More specifically, she is interested in how non-neuronal glial cells in the brain impact tumor growth and progression. By decoding these interactions, we will develop a better understanding of any exploitable vulnerabilities that exist, and in the end, improve patient outlooks. In her free time, Alyssa reads sci-fi and fantasy books, knits, and pets her cat.
Dr. Xiao received his Ph.D. at Tsinghua University in 2002. His research focuses on how the tumor cell and microenvironment co-evolve to drive tumor initiation, progression, and therapeutic resistance. He is interested in the roles of immune cells, especially how to stimulate these cells to prevent cancer and enhance therapeutic response. In his free time, Dr. Xiao enjoys moments with his family and his dog Mulan.
Shao-Ping (Emily) Yang
Graduate Research Assistant-GSBS
Shao-Ping (Emily) is a Ph.D. student in Immunology Program & Cancer Biology Program at GSBS and joined Dr. Yu’s laboratory in 2021. She received her master’s degree in Biotechnology and bachelor's degree in Life Science from National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan. Emily is interested in modulating the tumor immune microenvironment to enhance the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy. Her research focuses on targeting epigenetics in combination with immunotherapy to impede brain metastasis. Emily also actively serves in Texas Taiwanese Biotechnology Association (TTBA) as a board member as well as in the Taiwanese Student Association, facilitating connections between biomedical science professionals. In her leisure time, she enjoys cinema, bouldering, and the company of her lovely cat.
Dr. Yuan obtained his Ph.D. at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) in 2011 followed by clinical research experience at an affiliated hospital of SJTU and postdoctoral training at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Yuan has interdisciplinary expertise in the tumor immune microenvironment, cellular and molecular cancer biology, and tumor immunotherapy. He dedicates to applying basic/translational cancer research excellence with an emphasis on better understanding the complex immune-tumor interactions that occur within the cancer-immunity cycle to develop rationally designed novel efficacious immunotherapeutic approaches ending cancer significantly. Beyond scientific research, Dr. Yuan enjoys running, swimming, and likes biotech/tech business analysis.
Dr. Yuzhalin is a biomedical scientist who obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Oxford in 2018 and has broad expertise in cell and molecular biology. His research focuses on life-threatening diseases such as atherosclerosis and cancer, and his long-term career goal is to lower the incidence and mortality associated with these diseases. Dr. Yuzhalin is particularly interested in metastasis, a process of cancer cell dissemination throughout the body. As a member of Dr. Yu’s lab, he is investigating the biology of breast cancer brain metastasis. Other research interests include, but are not limited to: 1) What is the impact of the extracellular matrix on tumor development? How do tumor cells interact with the host vasculature during metastasis? 2) How do cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) remodel primary tumors and metastatic microenvironments? 3) What are the mechanisms of pathological calcification caused by calcium-phosphate bions in the human body? Outside of research, Dr. Yuzhalin enjoys cycling, reading, and playing League of Legends (ranked).
Dr. Zhang is an instructor in the Yu lab who received her Ph.D. at MD Anderson Cancer Center UT Health Houston Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 2016. She focuses on deciphering one of the most important questions in cancer research: cancer metastasis. She studies the novel therapeutic strategies of targeting the driver kinases to treat brain metastasis and explores the crosstalk between the brain microenvironment and metastatic tumor cells in aspects of epigenetics, immunity, and metabolism. She also investigates the novel mechanisms of bone metastasis. In her free time, Dr. Zhang enjoys cooking, baking, writing, and drawing.
Senior Research Scientist
Dr. Zhang is a Senior Research Scientist in the Yu lab who received his Ph.D. at Baylor College of Medicine. He incorporates big data analyses, as well as molecular and cellular tools to identify and characterize novel immune and metabolic determinants that modulate metastatic cancer progression in the central nervous system. The goal is to identify novel genetic or pathway targets that could be further utilized for therapeutical intervention. In his free time, Dr. Zhang enjoys reading and traveling with his family.