Our lab studies molecular genetics and signaling pathways during liver cancer growth to develop new therapies to treat this deadly disease.

Based on genomic studies from human liver cancers using both in vitro cell culture system and in vivo modeling, we are characterizing the functional contribution of major signaling and metabolic cascades that contribute to hepatocarcinogenesis. We are studying pathways that include:

  • Hippo/Yap
  • Notch
  • Ras/MAPK
  • β-catenin signaling.

We are studying the genetic and biochemical crosstalk among these pathways and how they regulate liver cancer development, and we are testing novel, targeted therapies for liver cancer treatment using drugs which specifically target these pathways.

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Why now

Liver cancer is the fifth-most-common cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death worldwide. The molecular mechanisms underlying liver cancer development remains poorly understood. Treatment options for liver cancer are very limited and generally ineffective. Sorafenib is the only approved targeted therapeutic drug for liver cancer. However, it only prolongs the survival of patients with advanced liver cancer for about three months, and it is very expensive. It is of great importance to elucidate the mechanisms leading to hepatic carcinogenesis and identify novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of this malignancy.

Why here

UCSF is a world-leading institution in health science research. It has strong research programs in basic, translational, and clinical studies. The Chen Lab is located at the Parnassus campus of UCSF. The lab is part of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences in the School of Pharmacy. Chen is a member of both the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and the UCSF Liver Center.