Faculty in the Center for Cancer Genomics

The Center for Cancer Genomics boasts a talented team of research faculty. Our multidisciplinary team of investigators is involved in ground-breaking research that has global implications. The academic importance of our work is shown by numerous publications in world-class academic journals. In addition, we are committed to research that makes a difference in the lives of individuals that face cancer. Therefore, we will continue to use genomic approaches to prevent cancer, identify cancer earlier, and to treat cancer more effectively.

Browse the alphabetical list of our faculty and their research interests. Additional details, including contact information, can be found by selecting the link that corresponds with the desired faculty member. 


Jianfeng Xu, MD, DrPH

Dr. Xu is a Professor of Genomics and Personalized Medicine Research, Cancer Biology and Urology at Wake Forest School of Medicine (WFSM). He serves as the Director of the Center for Cancer Genomics. Dr. Xu is trained in Medicine (Shanghai Medical University), Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Genetic Epidemiology (Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health). Dr. Xu is a genetic epidemiologist and has extensive experience in genetic studies of prostate cancer. Recently, he and his group focusd on research in applying genetic findings in clinics and populations. Dr. Xu leads a group in designing, genotyping, and analyzing many genetic studies of cancer and has published over 200 peer reviewed papers in this area. His primary research interests are 1) discovery of associations for cancer risk and progression with inherited genetic variations as well as somatic genetic and epigenetic changes in tumors, and 2) application of genetic research findings for risk prediction, and genomic-targeted prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.


Faculty Members:

Yong Q. Chen, PhD 


Suzanne Danhauer, PhD

I am a clinical health psychologist whose work has investigated potential benefits of behavioral and integrative medicine modalities with cancer patients and post-treatment survivors with an emphasis on symptom management. The primary focus of my research activities is patient-oriented clinical research. My research experience and current interests include the following areas: (1) the impact of behavioral interventions (e.g., yoga, physical activity) on symptoms, psychological function, and physical function with cancer survivors; (2) women’s health interventions, particularly the impact of mind-body interventions on hot flashes; (3) psychosocial functioning in cancer survivors with an emphasis on positive changes that are frequently reported during and after the cancer experience; (4) the impact of cancer survivorship on ability to work; and (5) the potential impact of psychological factors (e.g., worry, anxiety, depressive symptoms) on screening behavior and decision-making in cancer survivors or persons at risk for cancer.

Waldemar Debinski, MD, PhD

My laboratory focuses on molecular targeting for cancer treatment with emphasis on primary brain tumors. Our research is highly translational as we seek the means to improve the management of patients with brain tumors. We have uncovered a number of specific to malignant brain tumors plasma membrane receptors that can be utilized in their diagnosis/imaging/treatment. More recently, we have revealed intracellular signaling pathways that function abnormally in highly malignant brain tumors and represent attractive targets for therapeutic interventions. Thus, we are testing novel and potentially effective ways/agents to image and treat brain tumors exploiting their unique genotype and phenotype. One of these agents has already gone through the efficacy clinical trials and more are expected to enter the clinic in a foreseeable future.

Junjie Feng, PhD  

Dr. Feng is an Assistant Professor of Genomics and Personalized Medicine Research. He is a full member of the Center for Cancer Genomics. He has extensive training in a wide range of life science fields such as biochemistry, microbiology, genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, tumor biology, developmental biology, and pharmacology.  His research interests include 1) identifying aberrations in both the germline and the tumor genomes, and 2) dissecting the factors that associate with or cause these genomic abnormalities.  

Current Research: My current research focuses prostate cancer (PCa). A large number of men still die from this cancer every year, while the majority of men diagnosed with PCa will not die from the disease, and some may not even require treatment for their cancers.  Therefore, distinguishing aggressive from indolent forms of prostate cancer (PCa) is critical to eliminating death and torment from this disease.  I aim to identify the factors associated with PCa progression that leads to death of these patients, thereby allowing for the development of new biomarkers of prognostic and therapeutic significance for more effective management of this common disease.  Using high-resolution SNP arrays, my group has identified several biomarkers that are associated with aggressive and fatal types of PCa.  Collaborating with other scientists, we are currently using an integrated approach to uncover both genetic and epigenetic changes in both the germline genome and the tumor genome in order to dissect the mechanism(s) that lead to the death of patients with PCa.  If successful, the results from our research will help clinicians improve their ability to identify, at an earlier timepoint (i.e. time of diagnosis or surgery) a subset of patients that are most likely to develop aggressive PCa. The impact on treatment, quality of life, and cost may be substantial to both patients and society. 

Fang-Chi Hsu, PhD

Dr. Hsu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biostatistical Sciences. Her methodological research interests are in the development of statistical methods in genetic association studies. She has worked actively on several ongoing genetic studies and co-authored more than 10 papers in the past several years. Dr. Hsu is a leading statistician for our research on risk prediction. Her research is focused on the design and analysis of genetic and aging studies.  She is interested in genetic risk prediction, gene-gene interaction analysis, and longitudinal data analysis.

Patrick P. Koty, MD

Patrick P. Koty, Ph.D. utilizes his knowledge of human genetics and expertise in cytogenetic, molecular cytogenetic, and molecular genetic approaches to investigate the process of carcinogenesis in the hope of developing protocols for the prevention of cancer.

Dr. Koty’s research interests includes investigating molecular mechanisms for the prevention of lung and breast carcinogenesis, in particular the genetically regulated pathways of programmed cell death (PCD). The PCD pathway is altered in most cancer cells resulting in resistance to chemotherapeutic agents that induce this process, thus, at least in part, explaining the ineffectiveness of current therapies.  Genes involved in the regulation of the PCD pathway are also altered in premalignant cells. Therefore, genetically manipulating these premalignant cells to reenter the PCD pathway may result in the prevention of cancer.   Dr. Koty investigates the role of several PCD regulatory genes (bcl-2, bax, and bcl-xL&S) in normal, premalignant and malignant primary tissues and established cell lines from lung and breast cancer patients. 

Another research interest of Dr. Koty involves investigating whether a common primary or secondary genetic lesion exists which leads to the development of lung or breast cancer.  The existence of such a lesion in premalignant tissue would thus provide a method to screen at-risk populations for the prevention of disease.  Dr. Koty uses various microarray platforms to investigate whether such early lesions occur in lung or breast cancer patients.

Wennuan Liu, PhD

Prostate cancer (PCa) is the most commonly diagnosed malignancy in men in the US.  A large number of men die from this cancer every year, while the majority of men diagnosed with PCa will not die from the disease, and some even may not require treatment for their cancers.  I am interested in identifying the factors associated with PCa progression that leads to death of the patients, thereby new markers of prognostic and therapeutic significance can be developed for more effective management of this common disease.The first phase of our research is to contemplate a comprehensive survey for the changes of DNA in the tumor genome using high resolution SNP arrays.  We have identified several biomarkers that associated with aggressive and fatal type of PCa.  Collaborating with other scientists, we are currently using an integrated approach to uncover both genetic and epigenetic changes in both germline and the tumor genome in order to dissect the mechanism(s) that leads to dead of patients with PCa.

Guangchao Sui, PhD

1. Generally, I am interested in how aberrant epigenetic regulation can mediate the initiation, development and progression of cancers. I am focusing on YY1-regulated pathways, including Mdm2-mediated p53 degradation and Ezh2-mediated histone methylation.

2. Specifically, I am investigating how YY1 expression can affect prostate cell proliferation in vitro and prostate cancer development/progression in vivo. I am also interested in breast cancer and microRNA studies and want to extend my research area to these fields.

3. I am interested in the functional study of microRNAs and their regulation in prostate cancer development. Especially, I want to identify the regulatory roles of microRNAs that are frequently deleted in prostate cancer.

Jielin Sun, PhD

Dr. Sun is an Associate Professor of Genomics & Personalized Medicine Research and a full member in the Center for Cancer Genomics. She was well trained in biostatistics, statistical genetics, and genetic epidemiology. She has applied her knowledge in genetic epidemiology to multiple prostate cancer genetic projects and has published over 70 peer-reviewed papers, including multiple first authored-papers in Nature Genetics and JNCI. Her primary research interests are 1) the discovery of associations of prostate cancer and breast cancer risk and progression with inherited genetic variations, and 2) application of genetic research findings in risk prediction, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of prostate cancer and breast cancer.  

Mara Vitolins, DrPH, MPH, RD

Dr. Vitolins is an Associate Professor and Vice Chair in the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention in the Division of Public Health Sciences. She is currently the Principal Investigator of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Extension Study and the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS- Wake Forest Clinical Site). She has extensive research experience on women’s health and breast cancer. She has been the Co-PI of two WHI ancillary studies, the Genetic, Hormonal and Behavioral Determinants of Obesity study (Chang, PI) and the Follow-up of Healthy Breast Cancer Survivors in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study (Paskett-PI). She was Co-PI of the WHI BAA study, Interaction effects of genes in the inflammation pathway and dietary, supplement and medication exposures on general cancer risk (Xu, PI).  Dr. Vitolins is currently Co-Director of Cancer Prevention and Control of the Wake Forest University Comprehensive Cancer Center Research Base and just completed a pilot study evaluating the impact of weight loss on blood biomarkers (IGF, IGF-1, CRP) in survivors of ER/PR negative breast cancer.

Kathryn E. Weaver

Dr. Weaver is a clinical health psychologist and public health researcher who specializes in cancer prevention and control research. She obtained her PhD in Clinical Health Psychology from the University of Miami and an MPH at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Dr. Weaver was a Cancer Prevention Fellow at the National Cancer Institute.  She is a member of the Comprehensive Cancer Center of Wake Forest University (CCCWFU) and serves on the Executive Committee of the CCCWFU Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP) Research Base. Her current research focuses and tobacco use and cessation in the oncology setting, follow-up care use among cancer survivors, and rural cancer survivors. She is the PI of two NIH grants focusing on the health status and information needs of rural cancer survivors and leads a CCOP Research Base randomized clinical trial examining a smoking cessation intervention for lung cancer patients. Dr. Weaver is interested in collaborating on translational research to assess psychological and behavioral response to receipt of genomic risk information among patients who have or are at risk for the development of cancer. In addition, she is interested in genomic predictors of nicotine addiction and response to tobacco cessation treatment among at-risk populations.

Siqun Lilly Zheng, MD

Dr. Zheng is a Professor and the Director of the Genotyping Laboratory in the Center for Genomics & Personalized Medicine Research. She is also a full member of the Center for Cancer Genomics. She received her M.D. degree at Shanghai Medical University in 1984, and was trained as a postdoctoral fellow in molecular genetics at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Zheng has extensive experience in molecular genetics. Since becoming involved in prostate cancer genetic studies, she has published over 90 papers on the genetics of cancer and other complex diseases, including first authorship in NEJM, Nature genetics, and JNCI.  

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