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2006 and 2009 Liz Tilberis Grant and 2003 Ann Schreiber Grant Recipient – Lin Zhang

Lin Zhang, M.D.
University Of Pennsylvania
MicroRNAs, PI-3 kinase, and Ovarian Cancer Stem Cell Differentiation

Project Summary

Research in ovarian cancer has provided strong support for the “cancer stem cell” hypothesis, which proposes that a rare group of tumor cells have the unique ability to initiate and perpetuate tumor growth. These cancer stem cells can renew themselves (like embryonic stem cells do) and therefore contribute to cancer recurrence. Ovarian cancer stem cells may be highly resistant to chemotherapy; therefore, the development of more effective therapies for ovarian cancer requires effective targeting of stem cells. MicroRNAs are short pieces of single-stranded RNA that control the expression of genes, and which may play roles in cancer stem cell behavior. This research project looks at the role of microRNAs in regulating the “PI-3 kinase pathway,” which is involved in ovarian cancer stem cell proliferation. Dr. Zhang will explore whether the restoration of certain microRNA expressions will shut down the PI-3 kinase pathway and stop cancer cell growth. Such findings might lead to ovarian cancer drugs directed at specific molecules employed by cancer cells to grow.


Lin Zhang was awarded his medical degree in 1996. He served as Assistant Lecturer at Beijing Medical University from 1996 to 2000. In 2000, he joined Dr. George Coukos’ laboratory as a postdoctoral research fellow at the School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, focusing on studies of the biology of human ovarian cancer. From 2003 to 2005, he was a Research Associate in Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, University of Pennsylvania. In 2005 he joined the faculty as a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Center for Research on Reproduction and Women’s Health,School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania. He is currently Research Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Zhang’s current research interests focus on the function of microRNAs in human ovarian cancer. He hopes to find better cancer molecular therapeutic approaches for potential clinical applications, particularly, in ovarian cancer patients.

This grant is partially funded by a generous grant by the Louisa M. McGregor Ovarian Cancer Foundation.