Molecular Understanding and Immunotherapy of Metastatic Cancer

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

Principal Investigator

Xin Lu

Xin Lu, Ph.D.
John M. and Mary Jo Boler Assistant Professor

Department of Biological Sciences;
Junior Chair, Boler-Parseghian Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases (CRND);
Full member, Harper Cancer Research Institute (HCRI);
Cluster Chair, Cellular & Molecular Biology Cluster, Integrated Biomedical Sciences (IBMS);
PhD Program;
Member, Chemistry-Biochemistry-Biology Interface (CBBI) Program;
Member, Warren Family Center for Drug Discovery;
Member, Eck Institute for Global Health (EIGH);
Member, Advanced Diagnostics & Therapeutics (AD&T);
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN

Full Member, Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program, Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center (NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center), Indianapolis, IN

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


Brief Biography
  • John M. and Mary Jo Boler Assistant Professor, University of Notre Dame, IN 2017-Present
  • 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.

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Postdoctoral Researchers


Tianhe Huang

Tianhe Huang

Tianhe is investigating prostate cancer from several angles. A liked quote: "Stay hungry. Stay foolish"

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 survial of patients. His motto is “Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well”.

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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. 



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.

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Sharif Rahmy

An IBMS graduate student, Sharif identifies intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms underlying resistance to immune checkpoint blockade therapy.


X Wang
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.

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.

Yini Zhu

Yini Zhu

Life is such a beauty, I love and admire it, it makes me crazy. An IBMS graduate student, my project now is creating a new mouse model to have a better knowledge of how the smart but bad tumor escape from immune system.



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Undergraduate Students


Christina An


Sabrina Antonucci

Sabrina, a freshman and Mulva Scholar from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, is pursuing chemical engineering on a pre-med track. After spending over a year conducting hepatocellular carcinoma and HBV research at the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center, Sabrina works with Xuechun Wang in Dr. Xin Lu's Lab. Sabrina's focus in the lab centers around the Von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL) mouse model and its relation to renal cell carcinoma (RCC). By injecting RCC cell lines that have VHL overexpression into mice, Sabrina hopes to observe the process of tumor formation and test immunotherapy drugs -- like PD-L1 or HIF inhibitors -- on the tumor in order to suppress it. By utilizing the local injection method to induce tumor formation, the mRNA and protein expression changes in these tumors can provide insight into the mechanism of tumor formation as well as potential clinical therapies.

Ariana Arce

Hope Baldwin

Hope works with Yun Zhao to investigate the function of neutrophils in breast cancer.

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Louise Medina Bengtsson

Louise works on finding mechanisms of VHL disease.


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 receive an MD/PhD and conduct research in the field of Neuro-oncology.

Caroline Kaczmarek

Working with Tianhe.

Maxim Manyak

Working with Sean.

Marco Napolitano


Emily Wilt

My name is Emily Wilt, and I am a sophomore Science-Business major on the Pre-Med track. I am from the suburbs of Chicago and I now live in McGlinn hall. I am very excited to be working in the Lu lab, as I have always wanted to participate in research. Cancer research is an area of particular interest to me, so I am looking forward to my time working on the projects in the Lu lab.


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Postdoctoral Fellows
  • 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
  • Miaomiao Sun: Master of Science (2018-2020)
  • Meidan Wang: Master of Science (2018-2020)
Undergraduate students
  • Sam Arroyo (2018)
  • 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)
  • William Morgenlander (2018), Honors Program, Outstanding Biological Scientist Award 2018. Current position: MD/PhD student in John Hopkins University)
Visiting Scholars
  • Xi Cheng: Visiting PhD student 2018. Current position: physician scientist in Shanghai, China
  • Gang Huang: Visiting scholar (2019-2020), urologist
  • Zhijian Jin: Visiting MD/PhD student (2019-2020). Current position: physician scientist in Shanghai, China
  • Jiling Wen: Visiting scholar (2018-2019), urologist
Lab Manager/Research Assistant
  • Valentin Calvillo (2019-2020)
  • Seema Chaudhary (2017-2018)