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Mei Kong, Ph.D.
Research performed at: City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center
Specialty/Research Area: Cell Biology
Award Year: 2011
Career Summary:  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 and lymphoma Society (2007–2010).
Year STOP CANCER Award was received:  2011 RCDA
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’s research provides the molecular basis for developing new drugs that could starve breast tumor cells to death and block cancer progression.

With the generous support of STOP CANCER during 2011 through 2013, Dr. Kong’s group has uncovered novel pathways that mediate breast cancer cell survival under conditions of low glutamine, an amino acid that serves as an important source of cellular energy.  Her  team found that a protein called B55 is induced by glutamine deprivation in breast cancer cells, and is necessary to promote their survival.  Importantly, inhibiting B55 has no effect on cell survival and proliferation under normal glutamine conditions, suggesting that blocking it would spare healthy cells and tissue from significant adverse effects.  Results from our studies were published in 2013 in the high impact journal Molecular Cell and formed the basis for a 2013 grant award from the V Foundation for Cancer Research.  Our studies validate the potential of developing drugs targeting altered cancer cell metabolism as a means to eradicate the disease.

STOP CANCER is committed to funding the most promising and innovative scientists in their early research of all forms of cancer prevention, treatment, cures and subsequent clinical applications. STOP CANCER works primarily with local National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and other qualified institutions in the United States to carry out its mission.

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