Ping Chi

Cacner research and treatment

Member of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program

Self Exam

  • Occupation: Physician-Scientist
  • Alternative career choice: Chef
  • What do rock stars and scienctists have in common: Creativity and originality, hard work/practice
  • Musical Instrument I Play: Unfortunately none.
  • I tend to approach life: With an open mind and “glass half full” attitude
  • Biggest misconceptions about me or my work: About me: too serious
  • Worst part-time job ever: Cannot think of any
  • Longest med school study session: “Marathon seminar” by a famous professor to give a 4-hour Non-stop lecture.
  • Best moment in medicine/research: Has yet to happen…

About My Research

Disease Area: Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST), other sarcomas and melanoma

Research Area: Genetics and epigenetics, oncogenic transcriptional regulation, cell signaling, cancer biology and therapeutic and drug development

Science Impact/Accomplishments or Goal: The goal of my research is to pursue clinically relevant translational research, using cutting edge research technologies and hopefully to rapidly translate the research findings into clinical practice.

Research Description: To understand the genetic and epigenetic factors in the regulation of the oncogenic cellular context that contribute to distinct cancer types, including GIST, other sarcomas, melanoma and other solid tumors.


Ping Chi, MD, PhD, Geoffrey Beene Junior Chair

It is well recognized that the cellular context contributes to susceptibility to oncogenic transformation mediated by different “driver” oncogenes. The focus of our laboratory is to discover and understand the critical genetic and epigenetic factors that determine the cellular-context-dependent oncogenesis in distinct cancer types, with a primary focus on sarcoma and melanoma. We use multimodality approaches, including transcriptome analyses, epigenome mapping, and gene-expression-based high-throughput screens, as well as murine models to understand the mechanisms of pathogenesis and to develop biomarkers and targeted therapies based on insight into disease pathogenesis.

As an example, the interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) give rise to one of the most common human sarcomas — gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST). ICCs are particularly susceptible to oncogenesis mediated by gain-of function mutations in the KIT receptor tyrosine kinase, as patients with germline mutations of KIT develop GIST but not other malignancies. We have recently discovered that ETV1, an ETS family transcription factor, is a lineage-specific survival factor of ICCs. It is required for normal ICC development and for growth and survival of GIST in vitro and in vivo. We have further demonstrated that ETV1 regulates a lineage—specific transcriptional program well conserved in ICC and GIST. The ETV1 protein is stabilized by the MAP kinase signaling pathway downstream of KIT signaling and it cooperates with mutant KIT in GIST oncogenesis. These studies indicate that ETV1 defines the optimal cellular context for mutant KIT—mediated oncogenesis in GIST, and provide an explanation for why familial GIST patients and genetically engineered mice with germline-activating KIT mutations develop malignancy (GIST) of the ICC lineage, but not of other KIT—regulated cell lineages. They also suggest ETV1 as a novel biomarker in GIST and an alternative therapeutic target in GIST.

Our current efforts are focused on the following areas: 1) elucidating the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms involved in the regulation of ETV1-mediated oncogenic transcriptome in GIST and comparing results with data for other ETS—dependent malignancies; 2) characterizing the molecular mechanisms of ETV1 protein stability regulation by the MAP kinase signaling pathway; and 3) developing novel strategies to target ETV1 in imatinib-resistant GIST and other ETV1-dependent malignancies.