Big Ideas

Hai Yan, M.D., Ph.D.

Since 1998, the V Foundation for Cancer Research has invested $3.25 million in brain cancer research by awarding six V Scholar Grants, three Translational Grants and two Designated Grants.

Dr. Hai Yan, at Duke University, was the 2012 Designated Grant recipient of $1 million to develop a new approach to target a highly aggressive form of brain cancer called gliomas. Yan’s research is funded by a joint grant made by the V Foundation, in partnership with Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC²). ABC² is a non-profit foundation based in Washington, D.C., raising money to support cancer research. Some of the students in Yan’s lab are from NC State University and were part of the Jimmy V – NC State Cancer Therapeutics Training Program, designed to give promising students an opportunity to investigate cancer research as a possible career. Yan’s research program is a great example of research collaboration, mentorship and ground-breaking cancer research that will directly impact patient care in the future.

Yan’s lab has identified mutations in two metabolic enzymes, which are found in 70% of progressive malignant gliomas. Currently, brain tumors are classified primarily by their appearance, but it is not always enough to clearly distinguish very similar tumor types. Yan’s research shows identifying pathway mutations by genetic sequencing of biopsy tissue from brain tumors provides a much more precise and clinically-useful means to classify tumors.

By fingerprinting the genetic culprit in a tumor, Yan’s research will hopefully lead to highly personalized treatment plans for every subtype of glioma patient.