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Shawn Wang named program leader of Developmental Therapeutics at Massey

Wang is a scientist researching the development of novel immunotherapies for cancer

Shawn Wang lab

Massey researcher Xiang-Yang (Shawn) Wang, Ph.D., has been appointed as the co-leader of the Developmental Therapeutics (DT) research program at VCU Massey Cancer Center. He will serve in this role alongside Steven Grant, M.D., who has co-led the program since 2011, and Anthony Faber, Ph.D., who has co-led the program since 2018.

As co-leader of DT, Wang will partner with Grant and Faber to develop and direct the strategic direction of the DT program in the emerging field of immuno-oncology and will serve on Massey’s Executive Committee, helping to advance the cancer center’s scientific objectives. He will focus on opportunities to cultivate the DT program’s cancer-focused grant funding, foster translational cancer immunology research leading to new clinical trials, strengthen the DT program’s membership, and facilitate transdisciplinary and synergistic collaborations among its members in the areas of cancer biology and immunology.

The DT program consists of basic science researchers and clinicians who help bridge Massey’s basic and clinical research by exploring cancer therapeutics, including molecular-targeted therapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy; identifying molecular targets; assessing the molecular genetic profiles of tumors; and translating these findings into the development of novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of cancer.

“Shawn Wang has been a valuable addition to Massey’s leadership team,” said Robert Winn, M.D., director of VCU Massey Cancer Center. “His scientific contributions and leadership will strengthen our research endeavors in developing better cancer treatments.”

“It’s an honor to help lead a Massey Cancer Center research program,” said Wang. “Immuno-oncology is a critical area of cancer research now and for the foreseeable future. I look forward to working with my program co-leaders and research members to advance Massey’s discoveries into more effective cancer immunotherapies.”

Wang has been a Massey Cancer Center member since he joined VCU in 2009 from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. A professor in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics at the VCU School of Medicine, he holds the Mary Anderson Harrison Distinguished Professorship in Cancer Research at Massey. After obtaining a B.S. in biology and Ph.D. in molecular cell biology from Beijing Normal University in China, Wang completed his post-doctoral training in immunology and stress biology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Wang’s research is largely focused on understanding the mechanisms that define and govern antitumor immunity and the development of immunotherapeutic approaches for cancer. He investigates stress sensing/responding molecules, such as heat shock proteins and immune pattern recognition receptors (which are proteins capable of recognizing molecules frequently found in pathogens), and myeloid cells (which derive from stem cells in the bone marrow) in the regulation of inflammation and immunity as well as immunopathology in cancer and autoimmunity. He has a long-standing interest in translating his laboratory research to clinical trials. His research on chaperone-based cancer vaccination has resulted in a phase 1 trial in patients with metastatic melanoma. Also, his research on innate pattern recognition receptors led to the discovery of a previously unrecognized function of a protein, scavenger receptor A (SRA), in restricting the function of T cells that play a critical role in controlling and eradicating cancer cells. He and his research team are engineering and testing a therapeutic agent targeting the SRA for improved cancer immunotherapy.

Wang has published more than 140 articles and reviews in peer-reviewed scientific journals on topics in immunobiology, cancer immunology and therapeutics. He holds six patents for his scientific inventions, and his research is currently funded by multiple grants from the National Cancer Institute and U.S. Department of Defense.

In addition, Wang was previously awarded an American Cancer Society Scholar Award, Western New York Inventor of the Year Award, Charlotte Geyer Foundation Award and the Harrison Scholarship in Cancer Research at Massey. He is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, The American Association of Immunologists and Cell Stress Society International.

Written by: Jenny Owen

Posted on: April 10, 2020

Category: Center news & funding