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New McNair Scholar Focuses Research On How Breast Cancer Spreads

June 21, 2011

Dr. Xiang Zhang, whose research focuses on breast cancer metastasis, has been named a McNair Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine.

Currently a research associate in the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Zhang will join the BCM faculty July 5. He will be a McNair Scholar in Breast Cancer.

The McNair Scholar program at BCM, supported by the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and managed by the McNair Medical Institute, identifies “rising stars” in biomedical research in four areas ““ breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, juvenile diabetes and neuroscience.

Translating science

“Janice and Bob McNair have made it possible, through their commitment to research, for Baylor to recruit highly qualified scientists in specialized fields,” said Dr. Paul E. Klotman, BCM president and CEO. “Their generous support is making an important difference in translating science to patient care.”

Zhang is the second McNair Scholar to be named in the past year. He joins Dr. Benjamin R. Arenkiel, who focuses on brain research.

“Dr. Zhang is doing outstanding research on metastasis, the process by which breast cancer spreads,” said Dr. C. Kent Osborne, director of the Smith Breast Center and the NCI-designated Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center at BCM. “It is this ability of cancer cells to spread that results in cancer mortality that we need to understand. Dr. Zhang’s work will provide important new information that will lead to better outcomes for patients.”

Excellent match

Zhang said the Smith Breast Center is an excellent match for his work.

“It is such a comprehensive center. It has all the elements to do the best breast cancer research,” Zhang said. “The large clinical component combined with a very strong research enterprise makes this an ideal environment.”

Zhang said after receiving his doctorate from Columbia University in 2005, he decided to focus on breast cancer in his post doctoral research.

“I want to do something that is more likely to make an immediate difference to patients,” Zhang said. “Breast cancer metastasis is very challenging. It is a very complicated process and has been poorly understood. This is an area where I think I can make an important contribution to patients.”

Zhang received a bachelor’s of science degree in genetics and genetic engineering from Fudan University in Shanghai. He has been with Memorial Sloan-Kettering since 2006.

The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation gave BCM $100 million in 2007 to begin a specialized recruitment program for scientists. The McNair Scholars Program keys on collaboration in order to accelerate discoveries.

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