Chao Lu

2017 Regional Award Winner — Post-Doc

Chao Lu

Current Position:
Research Associate

The Rockefeller University (Joining Columbia University Faculty as Assistant Professor in 2018)

Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics

Recognized for: Identifying chemical modifications to our chromosomes that lead to uncontrolled growth and proliferation of cells, and subsequently, to the formation of tumors

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Chromatin Biology; Gene Regulation; Cancer Biology; Developmental Biology

Chao Lu

PhD, Cancer Biology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
BS, Biomedical Science, National University of Singapore

For most of his career, Dr. Lu has striven to elucidate the underlying causes of cancer. His work has largely been in the field of epigenetics – the study of heritable changes to our cells that go beyond mutations to our DNA. Dr. Lu's work has identified ways in which the proteins involved in genome regulation and packaging are frequently altered in human cancers. Dr. Lu demonstrated that these abnormal changes cause cancer by blocking cellular differentiation – the normal process of cells transforming from generic cells that grow and divide into specialized cells like neurons or kidney cells. When differentiation is blocked, these cells grow and divide rapidly, leading to tumor formation. Intriguingly, Dr. Lu found that by correcting this abnormal epigenetic state of cancer cells he could halt the growth of tumors, effectively “reprogramming” the cancer cell back to health. Cancer treatments that alter cancer cells rather than killing them would be less toxic for cancer patients. Dr. Lu's goal is to apply his discoveries to advance current diagnosis, classification and treatment of cancer and other human diseases.

“For many cancer types, toxic chemo- and radiation therapies remain the standard of care. I hope that through understanding the tumor epigenome landscape, novel precision therapies can be developed to effectively eliminate cancer cells while sparing normal tissues.”

Home Page:

Key Publications:

  1. Papillon-Cavanagh S, Lu C, Gayden T, Mikael LG, Bechet D, Karamboulas C, Ailles L, Karamchandani J, Marchione DM, Garcia BA, Weinreb I, Goldstein D, Lewis PW, Dancu OM, Dhaliwal S, Stecho W, Howlett CJ, Mymryk JS, Barrett JW, Nichols AC, Allis CD, Majewski J, Jabado N. Impaired H3K36 methylation defines a subset of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas. Nat Genet. 2017
  2. Lu C, Jain SU, Hoelper D, Bechet D, Molden RC, Ran L, Murphy D, Venneti S, Hameed M, Pawel BR, Wunder JS, Dickson BC, Lundgren SM, Jani KS, De Jay N, Papillon-Cavanagh S, Andrulis IL, Sawyer SL, Grynspan D, Turcotte RE, Nadaf J, Fahiminiyah S, Muir TW, Majewski J, Thompson CB, Chi P, Garcia BA, Allis CD, Jabado N, Lewis PW. Histone H3K36 mutations promote sarcomagenesis through altered histone methylation landscape. Science. 2016
  3. Bayliss J, Mukherjee P, Lu C, Jain SU, Chung C, Martinez D, Sabari B, Margol AS, Panwalkar P, Parolia A, Pekmezci M, McEachin RC, Cieslik M, Tamrazi B, Garcia BA, La Rocca G, Santi M, Lewis PW, Hawkins C, Melnick A, Allis CD, Thompson CB, Chinnaiyan AM, Judkins AR, Venneti S. Lowered H3K27me3 and DNA hypomethylation define poorly prognostic pediatric posterior fossa ependymomas. Sci Transl Med. 2016
  4. Lu C, Ward PS, Kapoor GS, Rohle D, Turcan S, Abdel-Wahab O, Edwards CR, Khanin R, Figueroa ME, Melnick A, Wellen KE, O'Rourke DM, Berger SL, Chan TA, Levine RL, Mellinghoff IK, Thompson CB. IDH mutation impairs histone demethylation and results in a block to cell differentiation. Nature. 2012

Other Honors:
2016-2021 NIH/NCI Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00)
2015 Future of Cancer Science Symposium, MD Anderson Cancer Center
2014-2016 Postdoctoral Fellowship, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation
2007 Honor’s Degree, National University of Singapore
2004-2005 Dean’s List, National University of Singapore

In the Media:
Nature News