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VCU Quest Fund boosts promising cancer research at Massey

Headshots of researchers Yue Sun and Guizhi Zhu
Yue Sun, Ph.D. (left), and Guizhi Yue, Ph.D.

Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center researchers Guizhi (Julian) Zhu, Ph.D., and Yue Sun, Ph.D., are two of just 18 researchers at VCU to receive awards from the Presidential Research Quest Fund.

The Research Fund’s goal is to afford all VCU faculty an internal funding opportunity to support new, emerging or continuing research that specifically aligns with the goals and key strategies presented in VCU’s Quest 2025: Together We Transform strategic plan. A total of $500,000 in funding was awarded this year to support research that is dedicated to improving the human condition for those living in Virginia and beyond. 

Zhu was awarded $25,000 to advance the development of an efficient, simple and safe drug delivery system that targets triple-negative breast cancer at the tissue and cellular levels. His research centers on creating nanovaccines that dispense nanoscale particles into the immune system in order to stimulate a response against cancer cells.

“This approach does not require a cancer-specific biomarker for drug delivery, which is ideal for triple negative breast cancer because, to date, no stable biomarkers have been found to target,” says Zhu, who is a member of the Developmental Therapeutics research program at Massey and an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmaceutics and Center for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Sciences at the VCU School of Pharmacy.

Sun was awarded $50,000 to advance research that is attempting to identify and understand how specific molecular targets interact to promote head and neck squamous cell carcinoma progression. Research from his lab suggests that two proteins known as PIPKIgi5 and SNX5 interrelate to control the function of the tumor suppressor gene FBW7.

“Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma is the sixth most prevalent cancer worldwide, and long-term survival rates have not increased significantly in the past 20 years,” says Sun, who is a member of the Cancer Cell Signaling research program at Massey and assistant professor at the Philips Institute for Oral Health Research at the VCU School of Dentistry. “I’m hopeful this research will shed light on a key regulator of head and neck cancer and help identify new targets for future treatments.”

For more information about the Presidential Research Quest Fund and this year’s awards, visit the website for the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation.

Written by: John Wallace

Posted on: September 24, 2019

Category: Center news & funding