Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Hanes and Willis Family Professor in Cancer
Director, Cancer Genomics and Precision Oncology
Director, Genetics and Metabolism of Cancer Program
Professor, Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University
Co-Director, ISB/MDACC Genome Data Analysis Center
Dr. Zhang is a leader of precision oncology, using NFCR support since 2006 to characterize underlying genetic mechanisms responsible for cancer growth and progression. His research addresses the variability in cellular properties, within and across cancer types, which often leads to treatment resistance and poor survival in patients. For example, African-Americans diagnosed with lung cancer have higher incidences and lower survival rates than Caucasian Americans. Utilizing leading-edge genomic techniques, Dr. Zhang discovered that lung cancer in African-Americans expressed higher immunosuppressive components, permitting the lung cancer to escape attack by their immune system.
Dr. Zhang’s research has advanced our understanding of the role of genetic mutations in cancer progression and treatment: 1) lung cancer in African-Americans expresses a mutation in the TP53 tumor suppressor gene, leading to shorter survival times; 2) daily alcohol consumption causes DNA damage and changes in over 600 genes shown to be involved in cancer development; and 3) development of new computational methods utilizing artificial intelligence can predict the origin of cancers that have metastasized to the brain. Dr. Zhang’s precision oncology approach has the potential to improve outcomes for patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia, melanoma, sarcoma, and cancers of the lung, gastrointestinal tract, pancreas, ovary, uterus, brain and liver.
Wei Zhang, Ph.D., is the Director of Cancer Genomics and Precision Oncology at the Comprehensive Cancer Center of Wake Forest. He is also co-director of one of the Genome Data Analysis Centers.
Dr. Zhang graduated from Peking University in Beijing, China in 1985 before receiving his Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Texas. From 1999 to 2016, Dr. Zhang was the director of the Genomics Core Laboratory at MD Anderson’s Cancer Center. In 2004, he joined the faculty of MD Anderson’s Cancer Center and, in just two years, rose to the rank of full professor, teaching pathology and cancer biology. From 2014 to 2016, Dr. Zhang was the Director of the NFCR Center for Cancer System Informatics at MD Anderson’s Cancer Center.
Dr. Zhang has published more than 350 peer-reviewed papers and his research has been supported by numerous grants from the National Cancer Institute, the Department of Defense, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and several foundations, including NFCR, the Goldhirsh Foundation, the James S. McDonald Foundation and the Shriver Initiatives for Sarcoma. He received the 2020 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Team Science Awards.