Hui Feng, MD, PhD

Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts

2016 Cancer Research Grant Recipient

Dr. Hui Feng is an Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts. She received an MD in 1994 from Peking University Health Science Center in China and a PhD in cellular biology in 2002 from the University of Georgia. Her postdoctoral training is in cancer biology, during which time she made several seminal discoveries in the field through the development of zebrafish models of MYC-driven cancer and genome-wide genetic screens, which led to the identification of novel contributors to MYC-driven tumorigenesis. Since establishing her own research laboratory, Dr. Feng’s focus has been on combining analyses of human cancer cells and animal models for mechanistic studies and therapeutic evaluation of novel mediators of MYC-driven cancers, which she achieves through cross-disciplinary collaborations. In 2016, she received an award from TMKF to study targeting elevated S1P1 signaling as a novel therapeutic approach for triple-negative breast cancer.

Prior to receiving TMKF funding, Dr. Feng had no experience in breast cancer research, and the funding allowed her to move her research into the realm of breast cancer. Utilizing her unique expertise with the zebrafish model, she was able to establish zebrafish xenograft models of human triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). The research led to new and important insights into the disease mechanism and potential therapeutic approaches for aggressive TNBC with a unique genetic alteration. It also led to the discovery of an FDA approved drug, currently used for treating other diseases, that effectively inhibited breast cancer metastasis. Dr. Feng is hopeful that the findings will change how TNBC patients with this type of genetic activation are currently treated by combining this targeted therapy with the standard therapy.

Not only did Dr. Feng’s TMKF funded project allow her to expand her program of research, but it also resulted in cross-disciplinary collaborations, multiple publications, and additional research funding. Her extraordinary achievements have been recognized through numerous honors and awards, including fellowships from the Cancer Research Institute and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, K99/R00, Ralph Edwards Career Development and Wing Tat Lee Endowment Professorships, Leukemia Research Foundation Young Investigator, and St. Baldrick Career Development Scholar, American Cancer Society Scholar, R56, R01, and NSF Awards. Dr. Feng is a dedicated mentor and has trained a number of predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows, whose achievements have also been recognized by multiple awards. As an internationally recognized expert in zebrafish models, she currently serves on the board of directors for the Zebrafish Disease Model Society and is a co-leader for a drug discovery research interest group.

“This is part of the genius of Hui Feng. The zebrafish can model human systems, and using them allows her to do pharmacological and genetics work quickly and relatively cheaply. [In addition], the zebrafish has the advantage of being particularly transparent, so we can really look inside the tissues in a live animal and see how the cancer spreads. In that aspect, the zebrafish is a perfect model to study cancer.”

Excerpt from Mary Kay Ash Foundation 25th Anniversary Cancer Research Grant Report