Dr. Kong is Assistant Professor, Division of Tumor Cell Biology at the Beckman Research Institute, City of Hope (Duarte, CA). She is also an Active Member of the American Association for Cancer Research. She received her Ph.D. in Cell Biology in 2003 from McGill University (Montreal, QC). She undertook a postdoctoral fellowship at Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). Besides her STOP CANCER Award, Dr. Kong is the recipient of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Fellowship (2006–2008) and a Career Development Award (Special Fellow) from the leukemia
Year STOP CANCER Award was received:
Description of research performed:
As a cancer cell biologist, Dr. Kong is studying signal transduction
pathways, and in particular the cellular functions of protein serine-threonine phosphates in tumor development.
The goals of Dr. Kong’s research are to determine the metabolic changes in breast cancer cells and to help develop novel drugs targeting metabolic differences between rapidly proliferating cancer cells and normal cells.
Results of research: Dr. Kong is describing the role of protein phosphatase 2A in cell metabolism.
During the past year, Dr. Kong’s lab has demonstrated that the protein phosphatase 2A(PP2A) plays a critical role in mediating cell survival upon glutamine deprivation.
Glutamine and glucose are two major nutrients to support breast cancer cell growth and survival. Progress has been made in elucidating how cancer cells survive glucose deprivation. However, exactly how cancer cells survive glutamine deprivation is totally unknown, despite knowing that glutamine level is very low in many solid tumors.
Since PP2A is a member of a large family of protein complexes that regulate many different cellular functions, using real-time qPCR screening demonstrated that among 16 different PP2A regulatory proteins, only one subunit, B55oc, is induced upon glutamine deprivation in breast cancer cells and other cell lines. Using cancer cell lines and mouse xenograft model, her lab found that B55oc induction is specific to glutamine deprivation and is required for cancer cell viability in the presence of low glutamine.
Dr. Kong’s research provides the molecular basis for developing new drugs that could starve breast tumor cells to death and block cancer progression.
Dr. Kong will have sufficient preliminary data to apply for a NIH (National Institutes of Health) grant this year.