Dr. Yang received a Ph.D. in physiology from the Lombardi Cancer Center, Georgetown University in 1999 and an M.P.H. in epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2003. She joined the Genetic Epidemiology Branch (GEB) in 2000 as a postdoctoral fellow, became a tenure-track investigator in 2006, and was appointed senior investigator upon receiving NIH scientific tenure in 2014. She received NCI Director’s Intramural Innovation Awards in 2007 and 2009. Dr. Yang serves on the editorial board for Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, and is an adjunct associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Dr. Yang's research focuses primarily on the etiologic heterogeneity of breast cancer, in addition to the genetics of chordoma and familial cutaneous malignant melanoma/dysplastic nevi syndrome.
Etiology and Molecular Heterogeneity of Breast Cancer
Dr. Yang characterizes the molecular profiles of tumors and tumor microenvironment (TME) using integrated tumor profiling analysis to identify risk factors for specific cancer subtypes. She also investigates biological differences underlying racial heterogeneity. In prior work, Dr. Yang and her colleagues found that the unique early age-onset of breast cancer found among Asian women is mostly driven by the period and cohort effect. She is currently leading breast cancer studies in Asian and African populations to identify distinct molecular alterations in tumors, adjacent normal tissues, and TME in diverse populations, and to examine the associations of these molecular changes with genetic and environmental risk factors, breast tissue composition and density, and breast cancer subtypes.
Germline Susceptibility and Somatic Genomic Landscape of Chordoma
In her earlier research, Dr. Yang identified the first major susceptibility gene for familial chordoma, a rare bone cancer that arises from notochord remnants. Using whole-genome sequencing, Dr. Yang and her colleagues conducted the first and largest genomic analysis of skull-base chordoma to date and described a comprehensive somatic landscape of this rare cancer. She is now seeking to identify novel germline susceptibility genes and to expand somatic omics studies to improve molecular classification of chordoma for the development of targeted treatments.
Gene Identification of Familial Melanoma
Dr. Yang employs cutting-edge genomic technologies and novel statistical approaches to identify susceptibility genes in familial melanoma. Most recently, Dr. Yang and her colleagues applied protein-protein interaction and gene co-expression network analysis approaches to prioritize candidate genes identified from whole-exome sequencing analysis of cutaneous melanoma patients from melanoma-prone families and identified several new candidate melanoma susceptibility genes.
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