Molecular Understanding and Immunotherapy of Metastatic Cancer

Know What Is This Cancer Immunotherapy And Why Is This Replacing Chemotherapy In Cancer Treatments

Xin Lu

Xin Lu, Ph.D.

John M. and Mary Jo Boler Associate Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Notre Dame

Full member, Harper Cancer Research Institute (HCRI);
Full member, Boler-Parseghian Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases (CRND);
Cluster Chair, Cellular & Molecular Biology Cluster, Integrated Biomedical Sciences (IBMS)
PhD Program;
Member, Warren Family Center for Drug Discovery;
Member, Chemistry-Biochemistry-Biology Interface (CBBI) Program;
Member, Eck Institute for Global Health (EIGH);
Member, Berthiaume Institute for Precision Health (BIPH).
Full Member, Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program,
Indiana University Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center, Indianapolis, IN

Phone: 574-631-6592 (office); 574-631-3960 (lab)

Brief Biography

  • John M. and Mary Jo Boler Associate Professor, University of Notre Dame, IN 2022-Present
  • John M. and Mary Jo Boler Assistant Professor, University of Notre Dame, IN 2017-2022
  • Instructor, Department of Cancer Biology, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 2014-2016
  • Jane Coffin Childs Postdoctoral Fellow. Department of Cancer Biology, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 2011-2014
  • Jane Coffin Childs Postdoctoral Fellow. Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 2010-2011
  • Ph.D. (Molecular Biology), Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 2004-2010
  • B.S. (Biological Sciences), Tsinghua University, Beijing, China 2000-2004

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Lab Manager/Research Assistant


Xiaoxia Peng

Xiaoxia performs important technical assistance work to facilitate the research in the lab.


Jessica Weaver Cropped

Jessica Weaver

Jess has a B.S. in Biochemistry from IUSB and is an avid cat lover. She assists the lab with animal and RMS compliance as well as technical assistance for continued research. 


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Postdoctoral Researchers

Tianhe Huang

Yun Zhao, PhD.

Yun Zhao’s research project is to perform an in-depth characterization of tumor-associated neutrophils (TAN) in metastatic breast cancer. By exploring some of the questions that have yet to be answered, he hopes to manipulate these TANs to combat metastatic breast cancer. His final career goal is to develop potential therapeutics to increase the survival of patients. His motto is “Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well”.

Qi Huo Cropped

Qi Huo

I am a physician oncologist, and my main duty is really to treat patients with cancer and prolong their lifetimes. However, for several patients with cancer, especially those who are in advanced stages, the cure benefit is unsatisfactory. It might also need breakthrough in basic research. Recently, my research interests are mostly focused on the treatment of prostate cancer, and I am eager to learn more about novel strategies to overcome prostate cancer.


Zhongshun Liu

Zhongshun Liu, PhD

Zhongshun Liu has PhD in immunology and a research background in both academia and industry (once worked as a flow cytometry scientist for preclinical and clinical phase I and II of tumor immunotherapy in a CRO company). He aspires to find mysteries behind tumor immunotherapy resistance.

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Graduate Students (PhD track)

Loan Duong Cropped

Loan Duong

Loan is from San Jose, California. She is interested in understanding immunological mechanisms underlying cancer and metastasis as well as improving methods of immunotherapy. 


Xuechun Wang Cropped

Xuechun Wang

Xuechun investigates the function of VHL/HIF signaling and the underlying mechanism for the VHL disease. Xuechun is also interested in single cell technologies and the associated computational analysis.



Guoqiang “Orson” Liu

Orson devotes himself to investigating the mechanism of cancer progression and developing possible novel therapies for tumors. Now, he is specifically working on mechanism of androgen receptor(AR) inhibitor resistance and regulation of PD-L1 expression in prostate cancer by CRISPR screening.


Sean Murphy

A BIOS Ph.D. student, Sean is from Arlington, Indiana. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology from Wittenberg University he acquired a Masters of Science degree from Johns Hopkins University in Biotechnology while also working as a Research Technologist. His main interests include improving immunotherapy for cancer treatment as well as what role diet can play in treating and preventing cancer.


Yuting Zhang

Yuting Zhang

Yuting is focusing on how the genotype of cancer influences the phenotype of the immune cells in the tumor microenvironment. Yuting loves Chinese classical dance and folk dance.


Ziyu Zeng Cropped

Ziyu Zeng

Now a BIOS graduate student, Ziyu is from Guangzhou, China. Ziyu received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences with a supplementary major in ACMS. She is passionate about combining the power of bioinformatics and benchwork to decipher the cancer-cell-intrinsic mechanisms that shape the immunosuppressive microenvironment.

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Undergraduate Students

Ariana Arce

Ariana Arce

Ariana is a double major in Biological Sciences (concentration in Biomedical Sciences) and Anthropology. She is from Northwest Indiana and is a Lolly Scholar and part of the Glynn Family Honors Program. After losing a family member to the cancer causing disease Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, Arian became interested in developing treatment options for patients with cancer and/or rare disease. As a result, she is planning to pursue a PhD after undergrad with the goal of working in the pharmaceutical/treatment development field. In the Lu Lab, Ariana works with Orson Liu on the importance of the FOXA1 gene in prostate cancer as well as the role neutrophils play in the tumor microenvironment.

Ella Foster

Ella Foster

Ella Foster is a sophomore from Danville, California. She is majoring in Biochemistry wit ha minor in Sustainability, and is a Hesburgh-Yusko scholar in the Glynn Family Honors Program. She is working with Dr. Sheryl Lu, Samir El Idrissi, and Rachel Whitehead on exploring ways to improve immunotherapy treatment for castration-resistant prostate cancer. She is also very interested in STudying the tumor microenvironment to develop immunotherapy cancer treatments.

Keegan Gilbert

Keegan Gilbert

Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa and now from Draper, Utah, Keegan is a freshman Trustey Family Scholar and Glynn Family Honors Student studying Science-Business with a minor in Compassionate Care in Medicine on a pre-med track. Keegan has a deep interest in Medical research, specifically research on pressing diseases and illnesses and work with Yun Zhao exploring tumor-associate neutrophils in metastatic breast cancer. In the future, Keegan hopes to attend med school while continuing research, in order to receive an MD and go on to become a surgeon.

Hawraa Janabi Cropped

Hawraa Al Janabi

From San Francisco, California, Hawraa is a freshman Balfour-Hesburgh Scholar, studying Neuroscience and Behavior on a pre-med pathway. Interested in the intersection of the fields of immunology and oncology, Hawraa works with Yini Zhu to explore pathways of metastasis in prostate cancer. Additionally, Hawraa is also interested in new approaches to immunotherapy that provide more targeted treatment to cancer by identifying the specific pathway of metastasis. In the future, Hawraa hopes to recieve an MD/PhD and conduct research in the field of Neuro-oncology.

Caroline Kaczmarek

Caroline Kaczmarek

From Bartlett, Illinois, Caroline is a senior Science PreProfessional major with minors in Compassionate Care In Medicine and History. She is interested in immunotherapy and other drug therapies for cancer. Caroline works with Dr. Paresh to explore the mechanisms of metastasis in cancer. She is deeply inspired by her work in the lab and her studies and hopes to complete an MD and become an oncologist in the future.

Maxim Manyak

Maxim Manyak

From Los Angeles, California, Maxim Manyak is a Senior Dual Degree Candidate for a Bachelor’s in Pre-Professional Health and a Bachelor’s in Finance. He is a member of the Varsity Men’s Lacrosse team on campus and is in his third year of research in the Lu Lab. Interested in alternative pathways to improving immunotherapeutic cancer treatments, Max is working with Sean Murphy in the exploration of how diet and metabolism impacts the immune system as it battles cancer. Max is also interested in exploring mechanisms by which various metabolites activate a greater immune response against cancer, thereby providing patients across the world with an alternative, more cost-effective cure to cancer.

Rachel Whitehead

Rachel Whitehead

Rachel is a third-year undergraduate student from Dayton, Ohio. She majors in Neuroscience and Behavior and minors in Philosophy. Rachel is fascinated by cellular communication in the tumor microenvironment. She has previously assisted in projects at Notre Dame and the University of Copenhagen aimed to characterize interactions between tumor cells and immune cells. Rachel is excited to work with Samir El Idrissi and Ella Foster to explore treatment directions aimed at circumventing an aggressive subtype of prostate cancer. Rachel hopes to pursue an MD/PhD program to conduct research in the fields of neuro-oncology and immunology in the future.

Michael Chou Cropped

Michael Chou

Michael is a junior Stamps Scholar studying Science-Business on a pre-med track and minoring in Real Estate. He is currently working with Yuting Zhang in order to determine how the genotype of cancer influences the phenotype of related immune cells. Michael currently hopes to earn an MD and become a doctor.

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Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Tianhe Huang, M.D., Ph.D. (2018-2021), current position: Physician oncologist, China
  • Fang Liu, Ph.D. (Mar – Oct 2018, co-mentored with Dr. Kasturi Haldar) Current position: Postdoctoral Fellow in Kasturi Haldar lab
  • Shan Feng, Ph.D. (2017-2018) Current position: Director, Mass Spectrometry Core Facility, School of Life Sciences, Westlake University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

Graduate Students

  • Sharif Rahmy:  PhD in Integrated Biomedical Science (IBMS), 2017-2022. Thesis on “overcoming resistance to immune checkpoint blockade therapy”. Current position: Senior Scientist in-vivo early oncology, AstraZeneca. Linkedin:
  • Yini Zhu: PhD in Integrated Biomedical Science (IBMS), 2018-2022. Thesis on “Targeting the cancer-cell-intrinsic mechanisms to reverse the immunosuppressive landscape and enhance immunotherapy in prostate cancer”.  Current position: Senior Scientist, a leading CRO company in China.
  • Miaomiao Sun: Master of Science (2018-2020), thesis on “Antibody-drug conjugate efficacy for breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers”. Current position: PhD Program in Cancer Biology, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland
  • Meidan Wang: Master of Science (2018-2020), thesis on “Combined immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy for colon and ovarian cancers”. Current position: PhD Program in Oncology and Cancer Biology, The University of Freiburg, Germany

Undergraduate students

  • Marco Napolitano (2022)
  • Eun Suh Sung (2022)
  • Emily Wilt (2022)
  • Elizabeth Kerner (2022)
  • Tommy Pham (2022)
  • Ziyu "Platina" Zeng (2022)
  • Sam Arroyo (2018)
  • Hope Baldwin (2021)
  • Louise Medina Bengtsson (2021), currently MD/PhD Program, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
  • Rhea Desouza (2021)
  • Christian Frederickson (2019)
  • Xiao Han (exchange student from Sichuan University, 2018)
  • Yanting Luo (2020), Honors Program, Paul F. Ware, M.D. Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award. Current position: PhD student in Duke University
  • Jackson Mittlesteadt (2020), currently medical student in Ohio University, Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • William Morgenlander (2018), Honors Program, Outstanding Biological Scientist Award 2018. Current position: MD/PhD student in John Hopkins University)

Lab Manager/Research Assistant

  • Valentin Calvillo (2019-2020)

  • Seema Chaudhary (2017-2018)

High School Scholars

  • Selma Imamovic (2022), Research Cures Cancer Corps, Harper Cancer Research Institute