Breast Cancer Researcher Dr. Yibin Kang is Ready to Make an IMPACT

Here at Susan G. Komen Central and South Jersey, we are lucky to partner with many incredible researchers, doctors and scientists that make true advances in the breast cancer field. One such individual is Dr. Yibin Kang.

Dr. Kang is a Komen Scholar and Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University; he is also the Associate Director of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Dr. Kang has contributed to the advances of breast cancer treatments through his extensive research; he is considered an expert on the molecular mechanisms of metastatic breast cancer. His laboratory at Princeton University uses molecular biology and genomic tools to work towards discovering the root of why certain cancer cells become metastatic, or spread throughout the body.

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Dr. Kang will be joining us as one of our empowering guest speakers for the third annual IMPACT Luncheon on Friday, April 5, 2019 at The Hamilton Manor. This event aims to educate and inspire while raising funds for life-saving breast cancer services in our local communities.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Dr. Kang to find out more about his research and contributions.

Komen CSNJ: What inspired you to study breast cancer research, metastatic breast cancer in particular?

Dr. Kang: When I was a graduate student, I was trying to study viruses. I wanted to use molecular biology tools to figure out how viruses take advantage of their hosts to replicate. I decided to tackle the problem of cancer, because a lot of people are suffering from cancer, especially breast cancer; that is the most prevalent cancer in females, and also a major cause of death of women in the United States. My experience with patients at Sloan Kettering gave me an incentive to find the roots of the problem to treat breast cancer.

Komen CSNJ: What projects are you currently working on, and are there any recent innovations that you’ve discovered?

Dr. Kang: We have a team of talented scientists working on different projects, and we try to take a holistic approach to understand breast cancer. We believe that the end stages of metastatic cancer may have links to early tumorigenic events from the beginning when they start to form as cancer cells. This is why my lab studies not only the question of how breast cancer metastasize to different organs, but also why some of the early events of transformation from normal cell to cancer cell pave the path for cancer to become highly metastatic.

We also look at the steps of early events of metastasis when the cell arrives at the different organ, and what allows them to survive and activate there. We study how the breast cancer cell interacts in different environments, such as the lungs or bones, and why treatments for metastatic cancer fail. From this different angle, we try to get a whole picture to find the best point of attack to either prevent the cancer from metastasizing or make them vulnerable to treatments. We are also working with pharmaceutical and biotech companies to convert these laboratory discoveries to potentially more effective medicine for breast cancer patients.

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Nicole Aiello, a post-doctorate fellow in Dr. Kang’s lab at Princeton University, represented the importance of research at the 2018 MORE THAN PINK Walk.

Komen CSNJ: Can you share with us why fundraising and getting involved with Komen CSNJ is so important for your research in the breast cancer field?

Dr. Kang: The support we receive from Komen is a direct result of everyone who participates in the fundraising effort. When I started my lab fourteen years ago, the first major funding we received was from Komen; that was intended to support young scientists starting to establish their own lab. I was very fortunate to be one of the grant recipients from Komen at the start of my career.

The project that was supported by Komen led to the discovery and development of a compound that will hopefully be used in the treatment of patients. We were able to develop an antibody that allows bone metastasis to respond much better to chemotherapy. We are hopeful that that discovery, which is supported by Komen, will benefit many patients. Each person that contributes to Komen, no matter how small, makes a large contribution as a whole to our efforts to find a cure for breast cancer.

Komen CSNJ: What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about breast cancer, and the people this disease affects, through your work?

Dr. Kang: Throughout my career, I have met with many patients and their families, and often times when we publish a new study or a new finding, we get a lot of feedback from patients and they are very willing to try new things. Perhaps the most impressive thing that I will say about patients and advocates is how knowledge and up-to-date they are, and sometimes it seems to me that they know even more than their doctors. They are eager to learn the newest advantage in research and challenge their doctors to see if they could get the latest advancements in their treatment.

The other impressive thing I have noticed is the passion breast cancer patients have to try to find a cure for themselves, but also to support the research to benefit the future generations of women who may still suffer from the disease.

The common goal we have is to eliminate breast cancer. I want to emphasize that this is a great team effort. Together, we need to find a much better solution for breast cancer, and everyone who contributes is an integral part of this team effort. We are always inspired by the passion patients show.

Check out our full podcast with Dr. Kang here.

Meet Dr. Kang and learn more about the advances made in breast cancer research at the 2019 IMPACT Luncheon. Visit komencsnj.org/impact to get your tickets and enjoy an afternoon featuring plentiful networking opportunities, exciting prizes and a special recognition of breast cancer survivors.

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Our mission is to save lives by meeting the most critical needs in our communities and investing in breakthrough research to prevent & cure breast cancer.

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