Ningyan Zhang

Ningyan Zhang

University of Texas Medical Science Center at Houston, USA

Title: Antibodies targeting EGFL6 block breast cancer tumor growth and metastatsis


Ningyan Zhang was a protein biochemist and started my career in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry working on antibody engineering and drug discovery. After a 15-year research career in the biotechnology industry, I was recruited as a Texas ETF (Emerging Technology Fund) Scholar to join the faculty of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) in 2010. My current research programs focus on cancer biology and translational research to bridge novel target discovery to drug discovery. I received my Ph.D. degree postdoctoral training from the University of Kentucky and the University of Wisconsin, respectively. 


EGFL6, a member of the EGF like superfamily, is significantly upregulated in tumor- versus wound or normal endothelial cells. Our recent study and reported by others showed that EGFL6 plays important role in regulation of stem cell division and promoting angiogenesis. Using a series of in vitro and in vivo studies using orthotopic and genetically engineered mouse models, we demonstrated the mechanisms by which EGFL6 stimulates tumor growth and angiogenesis in both ovarian and breast cancer types. Significantly, EGFL6 blockage in vivo did not affect normal wound healing as shown by the existing anti-angiogenesis cancer therapy such as avastin. We have identified a panel of EGFL6 neutralizing monoclonal antibodies and investigated anti-EGFL6 antibody function in tumor inhibition. Results showed that blocking EGFL6 expression inhibited cell migration and invasion in cell culture studies. Targeting EGFL6 using our anti-EGFL6 antibodies also reduced the tumor growth in vivo. The results suggest that EGFL6 is a potential therapeutic target for breast cancer treatment and the anti-EGFL6 antibody presents a novel therapeutic strategy for blocking development of breast cancer metastasis.