Ouyang announced as director of Translational Science Laboratory at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center

January 19, 2024
cancer researcher Jian Ouyang at Hollings Cancer Center
Dr. Jian Ouyang specializes in studying genomic instability in cancer. Photo by Clif Rhodes

Jian Ouyang, Ph.D., has taken on the role of director of the Translational Science Laboratory (TSL) Shared Resource at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center.

Ouyang comes to Hollings from Duke University School of Medicine where he served as assistant research professor. He previously served as an instructor and research fellow at Mass General Cancer Center.

The TSL’s mission is to serve as a bridge between the basic science laboratories and the clinics, with the ultimate goal of improving diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Working together improves the opportunities for developing the next generations of therapies, Ouyang said.

Ouyang’s own research focuses on genomic instability, or an increasing chance of genomic mutations during cell division. There are two sides to the coin here. The first is when a tumor begins to develop. Normally, multiple gatekeeping mechanisms fix or destroy mutated copies of cells, but some mutations enable cancer cells to evade this surveillance system and begin multiplying. However, as the tumor grows, it can no more afford genomic instability than healthy tissue can.

“The cancer cells have already gone wild; they have already accumulated a lot of genomic instability,” Ouyang said. “But the tumor cells cannot have an unstable genome that keeps becoming worse and worse because that would lead to catastrophe – the cancer cells would kill themselves, which is not good for the cancer cells. So the cancer cells actually hijack the genome maintenance mechanism to keep their genome relatively stable so they can survive and proliferate.”

Thus, by learning more about how the genome maintenance works in normal cells and how it is hijacked in cancer cells, researchers could develop drugs to sabotage the process once the cancer cells are using it to their own benefit.

The Hollings TSL offers a number of services to researchers at MUSC, including single-cell RNA sequencing to provide insight into tumor biology and the tumor microenvironment, a digital spatial profiler, which allows researchers to understand the pathways and targets that can be exploited for treating tumors in a tissue context and multiplex immunofluorescence staining that produces images showing six different cell markers, which allows for quantitative assessment of cell populations that may be involved in tumor progression, metastasis, and antitumor response.