Zhang Receives NCI Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award (F99/K00)

October 17, 2019

Di ZhangEITS graduate student, Di Zhang, is the recipient of a National Cancer Institute Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award (F99/K00) for her proposal, "Targeting the Nrf2 Pathway in Cancer." The award supports outstanding Ph.D. and other research doctoral candidates while they complete their dissertation research training (F99 phase) and transition in a timely manner to mentored, cancer-focused postdoctoral career development research positions (K00 phase). Zhang's F99 phase began in September and she will most likely begin to transition to the K00 phase in spring 2020 in a postdoctoral position where she can receive further training in cancer immunology and immunotherapy.

Zhang is mentored by IIT-affiliated faculty member, Dr. Karen Liby, in the department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Currently, Zhang is working on investigating the role of the Nrf2 pathway in cancer. Inhibition of the Nrf2-Keap1 pathway has become an attractive target for lung cancer treatment, since mutations in NFE2L2 gene (encodes Nrf2), which are associated with chemoresistance and poor survival, have been found in lung cancer patients. However, there are no specific and potent Nrf2 inhibitors currently available. Zhang has identified a novel Nrf2 inhibitor through a high throughput drug screen. She is still working on further validating this novel compound and investigating how it inhibits the Nrf2 pathway. 

Zhang commented, "It is my great honor to receive this prestigious award. It is really the best recognition of my doctoral work."