2008 Recipient — Rugang Zhang, PhD

Dr. Rugang Zhang

Rugang Zhang, PhD

Exploiting Natural Cell Behavior to Stop Cancer Cell Growth

Project Summary

Cellular senescence, or the process whereby normal cells in the body stop dividing, essentially prevents a cell from growing. In mammalian cells grown in tissue culture, cellular senescence can be triggered either by activation of certain special genes called oncogenes or by inactivation of a tumor suppressor gene. This process is termed oncogene-induced senescence. Overriding oncogene induced senescence is a necessary step during tumor progression. Conversely, reactivation of a tumor suppressor gene induces cellular senescence and associated tumor regression due to activation of the innate immune response. Therefore, driving cancer cells to undergo cellular senescence may represent a novel therapeutic approach to combat cancer. The objective of this study is to determine the role of oncogene induced senescence in suppression of ovarian carcinogenesis and to define the function of a particular tumor suppressor pathway, called p53, in mediating this tumor suppressive process.

Areas of Research:


Rugang Zhang, Ph.D., is deputy director of The Wistar Institute Cancer Center and professor and co-leader of the Gene Expression & Regulation Program at The Wistar Institute. It is the nation’s first independent research institution devoted solely to biomedical science and a world leader in cancer, immunology, virology, and infectious disease research.

Rugang joined Wistar in 2012 and is also an adjunct faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania.

Rugang serves as a scientific reviewer for ovarian cancer-focused granting agencies, including National Institutes of Health/NCI study sections and the Department of Defense (DoD) Ovarian Cancer Research Program. Rugang was the recipient of the Liz Tilberis Early Career Award from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, the DoD Ovarian Cancer Academy Award and the Inaugural Liz Tilberis Prize for Excellence in Ovarian Cancer Research from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance. Rugang currently serves as principal investigator or project leader on many national peer reviewed grants and is a collaborator on multiple other national grants.

Rugang studies the biology of epithelial ovarian cancer, the most lethal gynecological malignancy in the developed world, to define novel targeted and combination therapeutic strategies. In particular, the Zhang Lab elucidated the role of epigenetic regulators in ovarian cancer and antitumor immunity in order to develop urgently needed epigenetics-based new therapies.