Dr. Yang is a cancer biologist focusing on breast cancer research. Dr. Yang’s lab has been working on gene expression, signal transduction, apoptosis, cancer stem cells and molecular pathology in breast cancer etiology, prevention and experimental therapeutics. His research has been funded by the NIH, Department of Defense, American Cancer Society, and local agencies.
Dr. Yang received his medical training from Luoyang Medical College, followed by an M.S. in Pathophysiology from the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences in Beijing, China. He obtained his Ph.D. degree in Microbiology/Immunology from RFUMS/the Chicago Medical School and completed his postdoctoral training at Northwestern University. Prior to his current position at NCCU, he was an associate professor of pathology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Dr. Yang joined the JLC-BBRI at NCCU in 2011. He is also an associate member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. He also serves as an editorial board member of several scientific journals.
Dr. Yang is an American Cancer Society Research Scholar. He was also a recipient of the Career Development Award from the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program and a three-time recipient of the AACR Minority-Serving Institute Faculty Scholar Award.
Dr. Yang's research interests include the following:
- Deregulation of receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) signaling in breast cancer development and therapeutic resistance: Deregulation of RTKs has been implicated in cancer development and progression, which is also the target of novel therapeutics. Using cell line and transgenic mouse models, Dr. Yang's research group investigates the mechanisms of RTK deregulation in tumor development and therapeutic resistance focusing on erbB2/EGFR, FGFR and c-Met-induced crosstalk with other pathways, such as Wnt and Notch pathways, in tumor initiation and progression.
- Mechanisms of alcohol-associated breast cancer risk: Alcohol is an established risk factor of breast cancer. However, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. To understand the molecular mechanisms of alcohol-induced breast cancer risk, Dr. Yang's research will further previous studies on alcohol-induced hormonal disruption, DNA damage and stressed organelles.
- Dietary and metabolic modulation of breast cancer risk: Dietary and metabolic modulation is a critical determinant of cancer risk, and understanding the underlying mechanism is of pivotal significance. Dr. Yang's research group has been working on the mechanisms of soy/genistein, caloric restriction and metformin-mediated modulation of breast cancer risk.
- In utero exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) on breast cancer risk later in life: Increasing evidence suggests that in utero exposure to environmental factors may induce breast cancer risk later in life. Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the most common EDCs in daily life. The researchers study the mechanisms of in utero exposure to BPA-induced mammary tumor risk using transgenic mouse models focusing on epigenetic regulation and mammary stem cell reprogramming.
- Regulation of mammary stem cells (MaSCs) in breast cancer etiology and prevention: Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a key factor that drives cancer initiation, progression and recurrence. Studies suggest that breast cancer stem cells may originate from mutated/deregulated MaSCs. Dr. Yang is particularly interested in the deregulation of mammary stem cells in the premalignant mammary tissues and the transition of MaSCs to CSCs in different breast cancer risk models.
- Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and health disparity: African American women have a higher risk of dying of breast cancer than whites. One of the major factors that contribute to the disparity is a higher incidence of TNBC. The researchers aim to identify novel markers and targets of TNBC that can be translated to clinical oncology.