Chunzhang Yang, Ph.D.
- Center for Cancer Research
- National Cancer Institute
- Building 37, Room 1142E
- Bethesda, MD 20892
Dr. Chunzhang Yang studies the genetic and molecular basis of brain tumors, and leads the Molecular and Cell Biology Research Program at the Neuro-Oncology Branch (NOB). The goal of his research is to understand the vulnerabilities of brain tumors and identify biological signatures—which can be used to generate experimental therapeutics that improve the current standard of care for patients.
His lab utilizes cutting-edge molecular biology techniques and state-of-the-art preclinical models to understand the essential molecular pathways in brain tumors. He also conducts mechanistic studies on these key pathways, which could be inhibited in brain tumors to elicit more cell death, improve disease outcomes, and diminish therapeutic resistance. The primary approaches that Dr. Yang’s team uses include functional analysis of cancer biology, identification of actionable therapeutic targets, and development of experimental therapeutics for next step clinical application.
Areas of Expertise
Within the scope of his glioma research at the Neuro-Oncology Branch (NOB), Dr. Yang has designed a multifaceted approach to not only understand disease biology, but also steer laboratory research in a translationally-relevant direction.
The first primary focus within Dr. Yang’s lab involves using DNA repair inhibitors to sensitize glioma cells to radiation and chemotherapy. The goal of this work is to use multi-omic techniques with patient derived cell lines, tissue specimens, and bioinformatics to shed light on the transcriptomic, metabolic, and biochemical differences between glioma subtypes.
Additionally, Dr. Yang has been focused on the neomorphic activity (that is, the change in function) of the IDH enzyme, as well as its oncometabolite 2-hydroxyglutarate (2-HG) and its role in cancer biology and therapeutic vulnerabilities. Dr. Yang’s recent findings suggest that administering an FDA-approved PARP inhibitor (a DNA repair inhibitor) could result in synthetic lethality in IDH-mutant glioma cells, which improves therapeutic response with reduced tumor expansion.
Another broad research endeavor in Dr. Yang’s laboratory is identifying the metabolic and biological vulnerabilities of IDH-mutant glioma cells, in order to understand how these cells develop a protective shield and avoid being maximally impacted by therapy. Research has shown that NRF2, a transcription factor, could be a critical driver for survival in IDH-mutant tumors, and Dr. Yang’s findings suggest that targeting NRF2 results in more profound cytotoxicity in preclinical mouse models. Dr. Yang is also collaborating with other research groups within the NCI Center for Cancer Research’s Neuro-Oncology Branch (NOB) and the NCI more broadly to develop reliable IDH-mutant glioma mouse models that will be essential for studying the disease and potential treatments in a preclinical setting.
Targeting NAD+/PARP DNA Repair Pathway as a Novel Therapeutic Approach to SDHB-Mutated Cluster I Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma
Chunzhang Yang, Ph.D.
Dr. Yang obtained his Ph.D. in neurobiology from Peking University in China immediately after earning a Bachelor of Science in medicine at the same institution. Motivated by a family member’s brain tumor diagnosis, he moved to the NIH shortly after completing his degrees to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship at the Surgical Neurology Branch under National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. During this time, Dr. Yang led several research projects to understand the biology of neurological diseases and central nervous system tumors, in hopes of developing a therapeutic regimen optimized for these diseases. Following his postdoctoral fellowship in 2016, he joined the Neuro-Oncology Branch (NOB) as an investigator, and has led the Molecular and Cell Biology Program ever since.
In addition to his research, Dr. Yang is also part of several societies, such as the American Association for Cancer Research and the Society for Neuro-Oncology. He has received several awards during his time at the NIH, including a Distinguished Scientist Award and a Young Investigator Award for his postdoctoral research.
Honors, Awards and Leadership
- Best Poster Award, Annual Symposium of the Society for Neuro-Oncology (SNO) - 2018, 2022
- Performance Award, Neuro-Oncology Branch, CCR, NCI - 2017-2022
- Best of the AACR Journals, American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) - 2019, 2021
- Distinguished Scientist Award, Chinese Students and Scholars Association of the National Institutes of Health - 2016
- Young Investigator Award, Asian and Pacific Islander American Organization, US Department of Health and Human Services - 2015
- AACR-Aflac Scholar-in-Training Award, AACR Annual Meeting - 2014
- Scholarship for Excellence, Peking University, Neuroscience Research Institute - 2008
- Daiichi Sankyo Scholarship for Medical Student, Peking University - 2008
- Scholarship Award for Excellence, the ISN Special Neurochemistry Conference - 2008
- Scholarship Award for Excellence, International Symposium of the Society Chinese Bio-scientists in America (SCBA) - 2004
Select Societies and Initiatives
- American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
- Society for Neuro-Oncology (SNO)
- Society of Chinese Bioscientists in America (SCBA)