Yaun Chen

Yuan Chen, Ph.D.

  • Dean, Transdisciplinary Research
  • Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine

Yuan Chen, Ph.D.

Research Focus :
  • Cancer biology
  • Molecular and cellular biology
Yuan Chen, Ph.D., is currently Dean of Transdisciplinary Research and Professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope.  She obtained B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Science and Technology of China, and Ph.D. in Structural Biology and Biochemistry from Rutgers University.  She then conducted postdoctoral studies at the Scripps Research Institute before joining Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope as tenure-track faculty in 1994.  Her current research interests center on the role of ubiquitin-like modifications in major oncogenesis pathways, and the development of therapies by targeting novel mechanisms to address unmet medical needs in cancers. 
  • 2018 – present, Dean of Transdisciplinary Research, Beckman Research Institute, City of Hope Medical Center, Duarte, California
  • 1999 – present, Director, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Core Facility, Beckman Research Institute, City of Hope Medical Center, Duarte, California
  • 2005 – present, Professor, Beckman Research Institute, City of Hope Medical Center, Duarte, California
  • 1999 – 2005, Associate Professor, Beckman Research Institute, City of Hope Medical Center, Duarte, California
  • 1994 – 1999, Assistant Professor, Beckman Research Institute, City of Hope Medical Center, Duarte, California


  • Ph.D., Rutgers University, Rutgers, NJ


  • Scripps Research Institute, CA
The long-term objective of the Chen laboratory is to identify novel mechanisms that can be targeted for developing innovative treatments for cancer. Their research focus for two decades has been on ubiquitin-like (Ubl) modifications, the regulation of which influences major oncogenic pathways, such as c-Myc and KRas-dependent oncogenesis, which are resistant to conventional chemotherapy and, despite their prevalence, completely lack targeted therapies. Even though more than 1000 enzymes are involved in catalyzing Ubl modifications, in comparison to several hundred kinases involved in phosphorylation, Ubl modifications have been poorly explored for therapeutic development. This is in contrast to the development of over 30 kinase inhibitors as drugs. Thus, Ubl modifications are an untapped resource for potential new drug targets. Dr. Chen is experienced at leading and administering successful research projects, having received continuous federal and state foundation funding for more than 2 decades. Her cumulative experience and leadership in the field and past history of success have laid a strong foundation for continuing to obtain influential results from current research programs.
Staff Scientist
Chih-Hong Chen, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist
Tharindumala Abeywardana, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Jami Pei-Chuan Li, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Nicole Thomas, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow 

Harris Liou, B.S.
Research Associate
Mackenzie Kui, B.S.
Research Associate
Peiwen Li, M.D.
Visiting Clinician
Yizi Wang, M.D.
Visiting Clinician
Dan Vuong
Undergraduate intern 
Ashley Peterson
Senior Administrative Assistant


Multi-kinase inhibitor with anti-p38γ activity in cutaneous T cell lymphoma. Xu ‎Z, Nam S, Wu J, Chen C-H,‎ Liu X, Li H, Mckeithan T, Gong Q, Chan J, Yin H, Yuan Y-C, Pillai R, Querfeld C, Horne D, Chen Y, Rosen ST.  Journal of Investigative Dermatology, in press.
The anti-cancer activity of a first-in-class small molecule targeting PCNA.  Gu L, Lingeman RG, Yakushijin F, Sun E, Cui Q, Chao J, Hu W, Li H, Hickey RJ, Stark JM, Yuan YC, Chen Y, Vonderfecht SL, Synold TW, Shi Y, Reckamp KL, Horne D, Malkas LH.  Clin Cancer Res., in press.
SUMO-mediated Regulation of NLRP3 Critically Modulates Inflammasome Activity. Barry R, John SW, Tenev T, Chen C-H, Choi J, Kasperkiewicz P, Alnemri E, Drag M, Chen Y and Meier P. Nature Communications, 9(1):3001, 2018.
SUMOylation Regulates miR-34b/c Targeted Gene Expression Program. Li Y-J, Du L, Aldana-Masangkay GI, Wang X, Urak R, Forman S, Rosen ST, and Chen Y. Nucleic Acid Research, 46(14):7108-7123, 2018.
A stromal metabolic plasticity induced by cancer-directed MYC extension. Yan W, Zhou W, Fong M, Liu J, Liu X, Chen C-H, Fadare O, Liu L, Liu X, Cao M, Chin A, Jiang S, Ren X, Chen Y, Locasale J, and Wang SE. Nature Cell Biology, 20(5):597-609, 2018.
Streptonigrin inhibits SENP1 and induces degradation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1α. Chen C-H, Ambaye N, Li Y-J, Khanna, S, Chen Y. Biochemistry, 57(11):1807-1813, 2018.
Targeted inhibition of TET1 transcription as a potent therapeutic strategy for acute myeloid leukemia. Jiang X, Hu C, Ferchen K, Nie J, Cui X, Chen C-H, Zuo Z, Seibel W, Skibbe JR, Cheng L, Tang Y, Wunderlich M, Reinhold WC, Arnovitz S, Ulrich B, Lu J, Weng H, Su R, Huang H, Dong L, Wang Y, Li C, Qin X, Mulloy J, Zheng Y, Diao J, Jin J, Li C, Liu PL, He C, Chen Y, Chen J. Nature Communications, 8(1):2099, 2017.
A phase I clinical trial of binimetinib in combination with FOLFOX in patients with advanced metastatic colorectal cancer who failed prior standard therapy. Cho M, Gong J, Paul Frankel P, Synold TW, Chung LD, Chao J, Li D, Chen Y, Sentovich S, Melstrom K, Singh G, Luevanos E, Fakih M. Oncotarget, 8(45):79750-79760, 2017.
Domain alternation and active site remodeling are conserved structural features of ubiquitin E1. Lv Z, Yuan L, Atkison JH, Aldana-Masangkay GI, Chen Y, & Olsen SK. J. Biol. Chem. 292(29):12089-12099, 2017.
MEK162 Enhances Antitumor Activity of 5-Fluorouracil and Trifluridine in KRAS-mutated Human Colorectal Cancer Cell Lines. Gong J, Chen Y, Yang L, Pillai R, Shirasawa S, Fakih M. Anticancer Res. 37(6):2831-2838, 2017.
Role of SUMO activating enzyme in cancer stem cell maintenance and self-renewal. Du L, Li YJ, Fakih M, Wiatrek RL, Duldulao M, Chen Z, Chu P, Garcia-Aguilar J, Chen Y. Nature Commun. 7:12326, 2016.
HIF-1-alpha links mitochondrial perturbation to the dynamic acquisition of breast cancer tumorigenicity. Kuo CY, Cheng CT, Hou P, Lin YP, Ma H, Chung Y, Chi K, Chen Y, Li W, Kung HJ, Ann DK. Oncotarget. 7(23):34052-69, 2016.
Namanja AT, Wang J, Buettner R, Colson L, Chen Y.  Allosteric Communication across STAT3 Domains Associated with STAT3 Function and Disease-Causing Mutation. J. Mol. Biol, 428(3):579-89, 2016.
Alontaga AY, Ambaye ND, Li YJ, Vega R, Chen CH, Bzymek KP, Williams JC, Hu W, Chen Y.  Observation of an E2 (Ubc9)-homodimer by crystallography. DiB, 7:195-200, 2016.
Yue P, Lopez-Tapia F, Paladino D, Li Y, Chen CH, Namanja AT, Hilliard T, Chen Y, Tius MA, Turkson J.  Hydroxamic Acid and Benzoic Acid-Based STAT3 Inhibitors Suppress Human Glioma and Breast Cancer Phenotypes In Vitro and In Vivo.  Cancer Res. 76(3):652-63, 2016.
RWD Domain as an E2 (Ubc9)-Interaction Module.  Alontaga AY, Ambaye ND, Li YJ, Vega R, Chen CH, Bzymek KP, Williams JC, Hu W, Chen Y. J Biol Chem. 290 (27):16550-9, 2015.
Alontaga A, Chen Y.  Reply to Function and Structure of the RWD Domain.  J Biol Chem. 290(33):20628, 2015.
Madu IG, Li S, Li B, Li H, Chang T, Li YJ, Vega R, Rossi J, Yee JK, Zaia J, Chen Y.  A Novel Class of HIV-1 Antiviral Agents Targeting HIV via a SUMOylation-Dependent Mechanism.  Sci Rep, 5:17808, 2015.
Miklossy G, Youn UJ, Yue P, Zhang M, Chen CH, Hilliard TS, Paladino D, Li Y, Choi J, Sarkaria JN, Kawakami JK, Wongwiwatthananukit S, Chen Y, Sun D, Chang LC, Turkson J.  Hirsutinolide Series Inhibit Stat3 Activity, Alter GCN1, MAP1B, Hsp105, G6PD, Vimentin, TrxR1, and Importin α-2 Expression, and Induce Antitumor Effects against Human Glioma.  J Med Chem. 58(19):7734-48, 2015.
Alontaga AY, Li Y, Chen C, Ma C, Malany S, Key DE, Sergienko E, Sun Q, Whipple DA, Matharu DS, Li B, Vega R, Li Y, Schoenen FJ, Blagg BJ, Chung TDY, Chen Y.  Design of High Throughput Screening Assays and Identification of a SUMO1-Specific Small Molecule Chemotype Targeting the SUMO-Interacting Motif-Binding Surface. ACS Combinatorial Science, 17(4):239-46, 2015.
Fong MY, Zhou W, Liu L, Alontaga AY, Chandra M, Ashby J, Chow A, O’Connor STF, Li S, Chin AR, Somlo G, Palomares M, Li Z, Tremblay JR, Tsuyada A, Sun G, Reid MA, Wu X, Swiderski P, Ren X, Shi Y, Kong M, Zhong W, Chen Y, Wang SE. Breast cancer-secreted miR-122 reprograms glucose metabolism in premetastatic niche to promote metastasis. Nature Cell Biol. 17(2):183-94, 2015.

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  • 1994 – present, Member, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Duarte, California
  • 2013 – present, Associate Member, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, Honolulu, Hawaii
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