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Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center Director: Chi Van Dang

October 18, 2011, Volume 58, No. 08


Chi Van Dang, a renowned cancer biologist and hematologist-oncologist, has been appointed director of the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, effective September 1. Dr. Dang was a professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the departments of medicine, cell biology, oncology, pathology, and molecular biology & genetics. He also served as vice dean for research and executive director of The Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

“Dr. Dang brings to Penn Medicine a rich combination of experience as a physician-researcher, educator and innovator in the biomedical sciences,” said outgoing dean and EVP for UPHS Dr. Arthur Rubenstein in late June when this appointment was initially announced. “A true interdisciplinary investigator, he is perfectly positioned to lead us into a new era of collaborative research that will cement our role as an international leader in novel therapies—and cures—for cancers of all kinds.”

Dr. Dang points to Penn Medicine’s efforts to harness academic rigor to improve the health and well-being of patients as a key factor in his decision to join the Abramson Cancer Center.

“I feel very privileged and excited for the opportunity to lead the Abramson Cancer Center into an era of innovative personalized cancer care through the establishment of disease-specific translational centers of excellence in partnership with outstanding leadership and the biomedical community elsewhere at Penn,” Dr. Dang said. “The culture of collaboration and the collegiality is palpable at Penn, making my goal of harnessing Penn’s scientific power to bring new hope for cancer patients an invigorating challenge.”

Dr. Dang’s laboratory has contributed to the understanding of the function of the MYC cancer gene, which has emerged as a central transcription factor, or gene switch, in many different human cancers. His group documented the function of MYC in regulating microRNAs that have been implicated in tumorigenesis, and his laboratory established the first mechanistic link between the MYC cancer gene and cellular energy metabolism, contributing to the concept that genetic alterations re-program tumors to render them addicted to certain fuel sources. His laboratory was exploiting these concepts for therapeutic targeting of cancer cell metabolism as a new way to treat cancer. Most recently, he was the principal investigator for Johns Hopkins in a Stand Up to Cancer grant awarded to Penn Medicine from the American Association for Cancer Research to investigate how to “cut off the fuel supply” for pancreatic cancer. He also holds grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to study MYC function, hypoxia, and the development of novel cancer therapeutics that target metabolism. He is the author of more than 200 scientific publications.

Born in Saigon, Vietnam, Dr. Dang arrived in the United States in 1967 and earned a BS in chemistry from the University of Michigan in 1975. In 1978, he earned his PhD in chemistry from Georgetown University. Four years later, he received his MD degree from The Johns Hopkins University. Following his internship and residency in medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Dang completed a fellowship in hematology-oncology at the Cancer Research Institute of the University of California at San Francisco. In 1987, he was appointed assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, where he remained until joining Penn Medicine. During his tenure there, he has served as chief of the division of hematology, deputy director of research for the department of medicine. Since 2000, he served as vice dean for research for the entire school, overseeing research administration, policy coordination, and technology transfer.

Related: Abramson Cancer Center Seed Money Grants: December 5

Almanac - October 18, 2011, Volume 58, No. 08