"My goal is to define ion channel functions in brain cancer. Ion channels represent a large class of drug targets with historic success to treat human diseases. While extensive research has shed light on how genetics and biochemical signaling regulate tumor growth, the role of bioelectrical and biomechanical signaling is less explored. Ion channels regulate cellular bioelectrical and biomechanical signaling by controlling the flow of ions across membranes. Supported by the Sontag Foundation Distinguished Scientist Award, my lab decodes the biophysical language mediated by ion channels in brain cancer to develop novel therapeutics for patients."

- Dr. Xi Huang

Dr. Huang's Biosketch

Academic Appointments

  • Scientist, Program in Developmental & Stem Cell Biology, The Arthur and Sonia Labatt Brain Tumour Research Centre, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, ON, Canada, 2015-present
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto, ON, Canada, 2015-present
  • Canada Research Chair in Cancer Biophysics, 2017-present

About DSA-Funded Research

Medulloblastoma (MB) is the most common malignant pediatric brain tumor. Conventional treatment that combines surgery, radiation and chemotherapy often results in life-long side effects, whereas recurrent MB is fatal. Brain tumor-initiating cells (BTICs) are rare tumor cells that resist conventional therapy. Therefore, BTICs is the root for tumor growth and recurrence, and targeting BTICs is of tremendous therapeutic value. As pioneers at a new frontier to define the roles of ion channels in brain cancer, we identified an ion channel specifically present in the MB BTICs. Genetic deletion of the ion channel reduced the number of BTICs and suppressed MB growth, but it did not overtly alter the normal development of mice. We hypothesize that MB develops a dependency on unique ion channel that can be targeted as precision medicine against BTICs. We will determine the mechanisms by which the ion channel regulates MB malignancy, and uncover the unrealized potential of targeting ion channel to treat brain cancer by attacking the root of tumor growth and recurrence.

Accolades

"“Xi has fully demonstrated his remarkable gifts in initiating and bringing to fruition creative and demanding studies to critically address scientific questions of interest to both basic cell biology and the development of novel treatment for medulloblastoma.”

Dr. Lily Jan
University of California, San Francisco

"Xi is very unique in that he has training in genetics in two model organisms (mouse and fly), molecular biology, advanced imaging, and in neurophysiology—there are very few individuals like this. His multi-disciplinary research program is efficient and powerful and it was his team that identified ion channels as novel therapeutic targets in brain cancer. I am extremely optimistic about the scientific path he has taken and the scientific achievements he has made so far.”

Dr. Michael Taylor
The Hospital for Sick Children

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