(Helen) Yuntian Zhang
Joined March 1, 2016
Helen’s research is focused on the mechanisms involved the switching of cellular programs, particularly the cell state transition from a proliferative state to an invasive state. Her approach is centered on two master controllers of melanoma phenotype-switching: MITF and BRN2, and she studies the interaction of between two molecules the genetic networks they influence. The ultimate goal of the research is to identify markers that can predict when a cell is more likely to adopt an invasive program, and compounds that influence the invasive program.
Helen’s involvement in cancer research initiated with her experience at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she identified novel tumor suppressors in AML (acute myeloid leukemia). Afterwards, Helen finished her PhD degree at the University of Calgary, Canada. Her thesis work focused on neuronal plasticity. Specifically, she used genetic mouse models and microscopy to study the function of NCKX2, a sodium calcium exchanger, in the physiology of the hippocampus.