About Dr Yuyan Chen

Dr Chen has long-standing interests in understanding the pathogenesis of cancers. She has made significant achievements in cancer research including identifying target oncogene (ALK) of neuroblastoma and deciphering the involvements of another oncogene TPD52 in tumorigenesis.

The Tumor protein D52 (TPD52) gene was identified nearly 20 years ago through its overexpression in human cancer, and numerous studies strongly supports TPD52 representing a gene amplification target at chromosome 8q21.13. However, the underlying mechanisms of TPD52’s involvements in tumorigensis are not yet fully understood. Dr Chen and her colleagues have discovered that increased TPD52 compromised ATM-mediated cellular responses to DNA double-strand breaks induced by -ray irradiation, and was associated with down-regulation of steady-state ATM protein. These results suggest that TPD52 may represent a novel negative regulator of ATM protein levels. In addition, they have identified TPD52 as being required for the survival of ERBB2-amplified cell lines. Combining these results, it indicates that TPD52 plays dual roles in regulating cancer cell survival in the presence and absence of DNA damage, and it represents an oncogene whose overexpression advantages ERBB2-expressing cancer cells, and also compromises cancer cells’ ability to repair radiation-induced DNA damage.

Recently, the team has identified a novel function of TPD52 in regulating lipid storage in cultured cells. They found increased lipid droplet numbers in stably TPD52-expressing 3T3 cell lines. TPD52-expressing 3T3 cells showed increased fatty acid storage in triglyceride, and formed greater numbers of lipid droplets upon oleic acid supplementation than control cells. TPD52 co-localised with Golgi but not ER markers, and also showed partial co-localisation with Adrp-coated lipid droplets, with a proportion of TPD52 being detected in the lipid droplet fraction. Direct interactions between ADRP and TPD52 were demonstrated. Their findings uncovered a novel, isoform-specific role for TPD52 in promoting intracellular lipid storage, which may be relevant to TPD52 overexpression in cancer.

Dr Yuyan Chen has spent her career investigating the genetic and molecular basis of cancer. She is currently a Senior Research Officer in the Children's Cancer Research Unit at the Children's Hospital at Westmead, and a Conjoint Senior Lecturer within the Sydney Medical School (University of Sydney). Prior to arriving in Australia in 2008, Dr Chen trained as a medical doctor in China from 1989-1996, and specialised in paediatrics from 1996-2000. She undertook PhD studies at the University of Tokyo under the supervision of Professor Igarashi from 2000-2007, and then worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the same laboratory from 2007-2008.

Dr Chen has authored 22 publications throughout her career, including a first author Nature publication in 2008, and a co-authored Nature publication in 2009; both of which were successful examples of using whole-genome scans of genetic lesions (i.e. high-density single-nucleotide polymorphism genotyping microarrays) to identify target genes for different forms of malignancies. Since April 2009, Dr Chen has been investigating the functions of another amplified oncogene Tumor protein D52 (TPD52), and its involvement in DNA damage repair. During this time, Dr Chen was awarded a 2010-2013 NHMRC Early Career Fellowship and a one-year grant in 2010 as part of the Cancer Australia's Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme, co-funded by Cure Cancer Australia Foundation. Dr Chen has identified that TPD52 may represent a novel negative regulator of ATM protein levels, the key molecule for sensing and transducing DNA damage signal. This work has been published in Cell Cycle in 2013. Following this, their team has uncovered a novel role of TPD52 in regulating lipid storage in cultured cells with these exciting results published in Journal of Cell Science in 2015. In addition, as associate supervisor of 2 PhD students, Dr Chen has co-authored 2 additional research publications, two reviews, and one book chapter. Both of the PhD students have been awarded their degrees in 2013. She has also supervised a junior post-doctoral researcher to work on the 2011 Cancer Australia/Cure Cancer project. Dr Chen is currently an auxiliary supervisor of a PhD student working on project "Genes underpinning predisposition to childhood cancer".

Selected publications

For a full list of Dr Chen's publications please see her University of Sydney academic profile page: here