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Weili Sun, M.D., Ph.D.
Research performed at: USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center - Children's Hospital, L.A.
Specialty/Research Area: Pediatric Hematology/Oncology
Award Year: 2017, 2012

Career Summary: Dr. Sun is an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at City of Hope (Duarte, CA). She is also the Director of Pediatric leukemia and practicing physician treating childhood leukemia. Dr. Sun received her M.D. in 1995 from Sun Yat-Sen University, Zhongshan School of Medicine (China), and Ph.D. in 2004 and completed one year post-doctoral training from St. Jude Children’s Hospital. She did her internship at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore (MD) and her residency at Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Bronx, NY). She subsequently undertook a pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York, NY). Dr. Sun joined City of Hope in 2016 from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, University of Southern California. She is double board-certified in pediatrics and pediatric hematology/oncology. Dr. Sun has received multiple external peer-reviewed grants for her clinical and translational research work. She has published her work in many peer-reviewed journal and has been invited to speak at national and international meetings.

Year STOP CANCER Award was received:  2017 Emma Wood Seed Grant, 2012 Miller Family Foundation / Emma Wood Seed Grant

Description of research performed:  Dr. Sun’s clinical and research interests include developing novel therapeutic agents to treat children, adolescent, and young adults with newly diagnosed and relapsed leukemia and lymphoma. She was the study chair of several multi-institutional pediatric leukemia studies, including a phase 1 clinical trial using azacitidine in combination with chemotherapy to treat childhood relapsed leukemia. In addition, she is a study committee member of Children’s Oncology Group’s phase III study to treat children with newly diagnosed APL. Currently, she is developing several clinical trial protocols using novel agents to treat children with relapsed and refractory leukemia

Results of research:  Dr. Sun’s primary research interest is to study the “epigenetic priming” approach in childhood leukemia. epigenetics refers to changes in gene expression that occur without alterations in DNA sequence. Aberrant epigenetic changes are associated with cancer cell resistance to chemotherapy. It has been shown in the laboratory that epigenetic drugs can reverse these changes in cancer cells and increase the sensitive to chemotherapy. With the Emma Seed Grant received from STOP CANCER in 2012, Dr. Sun was able to secure further funding to fully support the phase 1 trial using azacitidine in combination with chemotherapy to treat childhood relapsed leukemia. This clinical trial is a first multicenter trial the first to test such epigenetic “priming” strategy in childhood relapsed acute leukemia. The trial has been completed and showed the strategy is safe with encouraging response rate. Preliminary results were presented at the American Society of hematology conference. A larger phase 2 trial to study further the efficacy of this approach is being developed.  

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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