Zhang Awarded $2.5 Million NIH Grant

Yong (Tiger) Zhang, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences at the USC Mann School, was awarded a five-year, $2.5 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for his project, “Reprogramming Exosomes for Novel Immunotherapy of Triple Negative Breast Cancer.”

The goal of the project is to develop innovative therapeutic candidates with enhanced effectiveness and safety profiles for the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer.

“We aim to exploit a multidisciplinary approach for engineering human cell-derived nanoparticles that can direct and activate the immune system for selective elimination of tumors,” Zhang says. “If successful, this project may lead to the generation of a new class of immunotherapeutics for cancer.”

Triple-negative breast cancer, which accounts for about 10-15% of all breast cancers, tends to be more common in women younger than age 40, who are Black, or who have a BRCA1 mutation. It differs from types of invasive breast cancer in that it tends to grow and spread faster, has fewer treatment options, and tends to have a worse prognosis, according to the American Cancer Society.