A pair of McGovern Medical School postdoctoral fellows from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology have been appointed to the UTHealth – CPRIT Innovation in Cancer Prevention Research Training Program.

Joo-Hyung Lee, PhD, and Zhao Zhang, PhD, were recruited to the program that searches for scholars from diverse disciplines to ask important research questions, apply the tools of innovative thinking and cutting-edge methods, engage in trans-disciplinary teams, and move the field of cancer forward in big steps.

Joo-Hyung Lee, PhD
Joo-Hyung Lee, PhD

Lee, a native of Seoul, Republic of Korea, received his PhD from Medical College of Wisconsin, where he studies the tumorigenic role of MAP3K8 in multiple cancer models. Lee joined the lab of Wenbo Li, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, as a postdoctoral fellow in 2016, where he has focused on identifying oncogenic enhancer RNAs (eRNA) via computational analysis of large genomic datasets as well as in-depth characterization of their action mechanism in cancer gene regulation.

“My long-term vision is that, with the identification of a category of oncogenic driver eRNAs, their direct inhibition can provide an ideal therapeutic strategy to achieve a cancer precision medicine which is innoxious to irrelevant health tissues,” Lee said.

Zhao Zhang, PhD
Zhao Zhang, PhD

Zhang joined the lab of Leng Han, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and research, as a postdoctoral fellow, where he focuses on using big data and computational approaches to discover new biomarkers to benefit cancer research. He has identified the landscape of multiple non-coding RNA, including tRNA and eRNA, across more than 30 cancer types, and has characterized functional consequences and clinical utility of many of these molecules. These biomarkers are valuable in cancer prevention, prognosis, and anti-cancer treatment.

“Currently, we aim to connect those clinically relevant molecules to genetics variants across multiple cancers,” Zhao said. “This work will screen large numbers of cancer risk locus to aid cancer detection in an early stage.”

For more information on the UTHealth-CPRIT Innovation in Cancer Prevention Research Training Program visit their website.

The Innovation in Cancer Prevention Research Training Program is funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas grant. The CPRIT program was created in 2007 as a part of a voter approved constitutional amendment authorizing the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas, and it was renewed in 2019.