Huiping Liu, MD, PhD, associate professor of Pharmacology and of Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology, was just inducted into the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), one of the oldest national medical honor societies for physician-scientists. The Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation is proud to have funded Dr. Liu’s breakthrough research in 2021-22. As Dr. Liu moves on in her career, and as a mentor for a new Lynn Sage scholar, we chatted with her about her award and experience with Lynn Sage.
1. Congrats on your induction – tell us what this honor means to you!
Being inducted into the American Society for Clinical Investigation is a significant milestone for my professional journey. This esteemed organization inspires and synergizes top physician scientists who have made remarkable contributions to their field; I’m truly honored and humbled to be recognized as one of them. The rigorous selection and induction process makes the recognition even more special, as I am the sole associate professor from Northwestern University and Illinois to receive this distinction this year. I eagerly look forward to contributing more to the society, fostering expanded collaboration within the field, and making new breakthrough discoveries to impact oncology and biomedicine.
2. Tell us about your experience with Lynn Sage – how did the funding you get from our organization help jump start your path in this field?
For more than two decades since my graduate school training, I have dedicated over 95 percent of my research efforts to the field of breast cancer. The Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation has been an invaluable and exceptional supporter of my work, providing funding through a grant in 2021-22 for high risk-high rewarding research. It has enabled us to advance cutting-edge technologies and make recent breakthroughs in identifying novel drivers of metastasis, which was published in eLife Magazine. This pivotal discovery of the social behavior of tumor cells has been instrumental in developing targeted therapeutics for cancer patients.
3. What does it mean to you to be a mentor of a new scholar – how does it feel to go from mentee to mentor?
I’m thrilled to be mentoring Dr. Nurmaa Dashzeveg on her new groundbreaking breast cancer research and upcoming research article. Dr. Dashzeveg’s work holds significant clinical relevance and impact on fundamental biology. As an educator and mentor, nurturing the professional growth of the next generation is a deeply rewarding endeavor, while I feel I’m a lifetime mentee too to learn from everyone surrounding me. Our study investigates how sugar patterns on tumor cells dynamically change and enable social behavior of these tumor cells to interact, aggregate, spread, and regenerate new tumors in distant organs. Since these sugar patterns alter under the pressure of chemotherapy treatment, our work aims to uncover methods to sensitize treatments, block the social behavior or aggregation of tumor cells, and improve patient survival. This will be achieved by developing innovative drugs that specifically target the behavior of these cells in a clinically beneficial way.
4. What’s next in the research process?
The latest advancements including immunotherapy and innovative technologies in the field of breast cancer are exciting. Using single-cell proteomic analyses along with machine learning and deep learning to help build new power on biomarker discoveries and drug development is a completely new direction to me. This novel approach has been high-risk high rewarding but won’t be possibly made without the support of Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation. I can’t get this funding from government agencies like I was able to get from Lynn Sage. The integration of artificial intelligence has been invaluable in analyzing vast amounts of data and optimizing drug screening, paving the way for a transformative new era in the field. This has assisted with one part of the new scholar Dr. Dashzeveg’s work – we are using deep learning and computational analysis to assess the responses of patients with breast cancer to therapies, provide predicative prognosis, and determine whether we need to adjust strategies. This groundbreaking research has the potential to revolutionize the future of breast cancer research and medicine, and we are eager to see its impact unfold.