Yonghao Yu

Principal Investigator
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

For the past six years, Yonghao Yu has been leveraging his Welch funding to explore how cancer growth changes proteins.

Using a high-sensitivity mass spectrometry system he developed, Dr. Yu and his group currently are seeking to understand the process by which cancer cells use the PARP1 (poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase) enzyme to repair DNA after it is damaged by chemotherapy. While a new class of drugs hopes to improve the effectiveness of chemo treatments by inhibiting PARP1, little is understood about the signaling pathways used in the cell’s repair response.

Dr. Yu and his team have developed a method to map protein changes upon PARP1 activation, and recently pinpointed differences in the process in different subtypes of breast cancer cells. The research could one day lead to a test that to determine the best treatment for individual cancer patients.

“I stress that this research is still in its early stages,” the UTSW associate professor said. “Our ultimate goal is to develop a signature, or fingerprint, for the changes in cellular proteins in response to the enzyme PARP1. Then, by correlating the signature to an individual patient, doctors could predict his or her response to a specific PARP1 inhibitor – thus improving treatment.”