New research lab will focus on improving treatments for soft tissue sarcoma

In May, the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, a division of Providence Cancer Institute of Oregon, welcomed Jianguo Huang, Ph.D., whose expertise is in cell therapy, preclinical modeling and gene editing. Dr. Huang is an assistant member, an Earle A. Chiles Research Institute leadership role much like a university faculty position. 

Dr. Huang has focused on finding ways to improve therapeutic strategies for treating soft tissue sarcoma, a rare type of cancer, since his postdoctoral work with David Kirsch, M.D., Ph.D., at Duke University.  

“This is my passion and my career path, and comprises my current research,” he said.

In 2020, Dr. Huang was awarded a K22 grant by the National Institutes of Health to study the coding genes and noncoding RNAs that regulate sarcoma development and metastasis. The grant allows him to carry his research forward at Providence, leading the Preclinical Cancer Therapy Laboratory, where he will research how to eliminate sarcoma cells at primary and metastatic sites by targeting critical pathways.  

“I want to fill the gap in sarcomas research, create a different type of screening approach and eventually expand my specialty to a broader type of tumors.” 

Path to sarcoma research  

Dr. Huang has been interested in science since he was young. Drawn toward the pursuit of finding answers to difficult questions through research, Dr. Huang pursued a Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering and a Master of Science in biotechnology. He received his doctorate in biochemistry at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and completed his postdoctoral fellowship in radiation oncology at Duke University Medical Center.  

While working with Dr. Kirsch at Duke University, Dr. Huang was introduced to soft tissue sarcoma. “The lack of funding sources and complexity of the tumor make it a difficult type of cancer to study. Fewer people study sarcoma. But I was fascinated,” he said.   

Before joining Providence, Dr. Huang was a senior scientist on the team of Discovery Cell Therapy & Gene Editing at Juno Therapeutics, a Bristol Myers Squibb company, where he worked on developing an engineered T cell therapy to treat solid tumors. 

Establishing a lab and home in Portland 

Dr. Huang said the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute was recommended to him because of the innovative immunotherapy research. While leading his lab, he will have a chance to collaborate with multiple teams. “I hope to bridge my current area of research with immunotherapy,” he said. 

As a new resident of the Pacific Northwest, Dr. Huang and his wife have enjoyed exploring hiking trails throughout Oregon – from the coast to the mountains. However, their adventures in nature are temporarily on hold after welcoming a new baby to their family. Dr. Huang said they plan to take their son hiking and exploring when he gets a little older.  

To learn more about Dr. Huang's research, visit Preclinical Cancer Therapy Laboratory.

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