Biomedical researcher studies novel targeted therapy approach to treat pancreatic cancer

PanCAN grantee Xiaochun Yu, MD, PhD

Editor’s note: We recently announced the recipients of our 2019 research grants, awarded through a competitive, peer-review process. Now we’d like to introduce you to each investigator and share what drives them to work in the pancreatic cancer field. 

Xiaochun Yu, MD, PhD, knew he wanted to become a biomedical researcher since he was a child.

“When I was in elementary school and junior high school, it was fascinating to read biographies of scientists and learn about their scientific findings, which helped me choose biomedical research as my career,” he said.

Yu is a professor in the department of cancer genetics and epigenetics at Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope. He received a 2019 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) Translational Research Grant to pursue a novel targeted therapy approach to attack cancer cells’ ability to repair damage to DNA.

Biomedical research team aims to block pancreatic cancer cells’ ability to repair DNA damage

Xiaochun Yu, MD, PhD (front row, center), with his lab group at the Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope.

“I am very interested in the genetic complexity of pancreatic cancer,” Yu said. “Based on our basic research findings, I am pursuing a translational research project to improve pancreatic cancer therapy.”

Upon learning his research would be funded by PanCAN and its generous donors, Yu described feeling very excited and confident this support will accelerate progress toward increasing the survival rate for pancreatic cancer.

“I am very grateful for the donors who allow us to test our bold hypothesis for pancreatic cancer therapy,” he said.

While the people who have inspired Yu most in his life have been fellow scientists, he also has a sense of adventure and curiosity about the world. His favorite book, “My Life as an Explorer” by Sven Hedin, describes the author’s 30 years of traveling and experiencing more of the world than any European before him.

And Yu’s favorite personal adventure? “I have been to many places in the world. My favorite trip has been to visit Antarctica, which is a quiet place without internet and cell phone access.”

And yet, when asked what he would do if he weren’t a biomedical researcher, Yu’s answer was simple:

“No other choice; I was born to do research.”

This intensity, focus and commitment were also apparent when Yu was asked to describe a particularly meaningful moment in his career. He said, “Not yet. The moment to celebrate will be the time when pancreatic cancer is no longer a lethal disease.”

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Thanks to your support, we are able to fund bright and motivated scientists like Dr. Yu.