Zelei Yang, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research fellow in Dr. Sarah Hill’s lab at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. She obtained her B.S. (Honors) in Biochemistry from University of Alberta, Canada. She then completed her Ph.D. in Biochemistry at University of Alberta, under the co-supervision of Dr. David Brindley and Dr. Denise Hemmings. Her Ph.D. thesis certified that latent cytomegalovirus infection enhances breast cancer metastasis in mouse models. Further investigation showed that human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) preferentially infects fibroblasts and platelet-derived growth factor receptor-a expressing breast cancer cells. Significantly, HCMV infection in the tumor microenvironment, rather than breast cancer cells, will increase the inflammatory milieu that could enhance metastasis. Dr. Yang received several fellowships during her graduate study, including a Dean’s Doctoral Student Award and a Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Studentship.
At Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Dr. Yang continues to explore the tumor microenvironment in women’s cancers, specifically studying mechanisms of overcoming immune cell dysfunction in high grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSC). Her research for this OCRA award focuses on deciphering the mechanism of action of the bromodomain-containing protein BRD1 in intra-tumoral immune cells, and how inhibition of BRD1 alone or in combination with other immune therapies may re-engage the anti-tumor immune response against ovarian cancer. In the long-term, this may lead to new immune therapies which have the potential to help all ovarian cancer patients. This OCRA Ann and Sol Schreiber Mentored Investigator Award will give Dr. Yang protected time for this clinically important research and hopefully help her provide more effective immune therapies for HGSC patients.