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Research By Dr. Xingxing Zang Reveals New Class of Molecular Markers in Ovarian and Prostate Cancers

  • Xingxing Zang, Ph.D.
    Xingxing Zang, Ph.D.
 
Name:
Xingxing Zang, Ph.D.
Location:
New York, NY
“It’s gratifying to see how my basic research will have real-life application in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.”

Dr. Zang received postdoctoral fellowship support from CRI to fund his postgraduate training under the tutelage of CRI Scientific Advisory Council Associate Director James P. Allison, Ph.D., at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. His research into immune cell recognition and activation has revealed a new class of molecular markers. His discovery may lead to new screening tests for ovarian and prostate cancers.

The passion that Dr. Xingxing Zang feels for his work is palpable. He is on a quest that’s taken him from his home in the rural countryside of Chegian, China, to the laboratory of one of the world’s foremost immunologists, CRI Scientific Advisory Council Associate Director Dr. James Allison at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Using genome technology to address questions in immunology, Dr. Zang’s rigorous, methodical, molecule-by-molecule search of the whole human and mouse genome has led to the discovery of B7x. “We find that ovarian and prostate cancer cells overexpress B7x,” Dr. Zang says. “These cancers use the B7x molecule to shut down the immune system just enough to let the cancer grow.”

Dr. Zang now wants to find ways to stop B7x from disarming the immune system. “We’re looking for the B7x receptor. Knowing where the receptor is and what it looks like will allow us to prevent B7x from binding to it, neutralizing its harmful effects.”

But blocking B7x is only half the story. In clinical tests, Dr. Zang’s team found a soluble form of B7x in the blood samples of both ovarian and prostate cancer patients. “This is almost as important as finding B7x on the tumor cells,” he explains. “If we can learn how and when B7x enters the blood, we may be able to develop a biomarker screening test for early detection of these cancers.”

As a CRI-funded postdoctoral fellow Dr. Zang’s work has already yielded enormous promise. As he puts it, “I am very lucky to work in this lab with a great team, and to be guided by Dr. Allison. It’s gratifying to see how my basic research will have real life application in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.”

Dr. Zang has now accepted a position as an assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.