An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
By City of Hope | June 17, 2019
As a child living in a small village in the Hunan Province of China, Jianjun Chen, Ph.D., professor and vice chair of the Department of Systems Biology, knew even then that his career interests would take him to the other side of the world.
His global journey led him to City of Hope two years ago, and recently that journey culminated in his investiture as the Simms/Mann Family Foundation Chair in Systems Biology. Chen was recognized with the endowment for his leading-edge cancer research that is founded in personalized, gene-based medicine.

The DNA of Cancer

“Dr. Jianjun Chen is digging into the very DNA of cancer,” said president and CEO Robert Stone. “The complex, coded instructions that determine when and how cancer starts, the triggers that set the whole process in motion and the techniques that stop it in its tracks. Dr. Victoria Mann Simms and Ronald Simms are visionary philanthropists who share our sense of urgency and mission to serve the whole patient – body and soul. With their support, we are able to hasten innovative research that puts cures for patients into doctors’ hands more quickly.”
Chen thanked his benefactors at his investiture ceremony for their belief in and support of his groundbreaking work. The Simms/Mann family is committed to providing access to healthy living, education, art and culture to everyone, no matter their socioeconomic status.
“Dr. Chen’s research has shown far-reaching potential and promises to bring about the development of effective therapies for cancer patients, especially those with acute myeloid leukemia,” Victoria Simms, Ph.D., said. “Under the leadership of Dr. Steven Rosen, the Chen Lab will provide the foundational knowledge that will shepherd in the next era of health care: precision medicine.” Victoria Simms is a nationally recognized child development specialist and philanthropist. Ronald Simms, C.P.A., J.D., is passionate about health and education, and works collaboratively with his wife to identify deserving and promising programs and individuals like Chen.

High-Risk, High-Reward Research

Since joining City of Hope in 2017, Chen has published six papers in high-profile journals such as NatureCellCancer CellCell Stem Cell and Nature Cell Biology. Among his long list of honors are a Research Scholar Award from the American Cancer Society, a Researcher of the Year win from The Pamela B. Katten Memorial Leukemia Research Foundation and a scholar award from The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. He is a permanent member of the National Institutes of Health Developmental Therapeutics study section. His research is also supported by multiple grants from the National Cancer Institute. Chen published a letter in a recent edition of Nature discussing a fundamental discovery that provides insight into a new layer of gene regulation, which could potentially offer a novel genetic target that can be used to fend off cancer. You can read the letter here.
“This endowment provides me with long-term continuous support to conduct high-risk, high-reward research projects,” Chen said. “I am honored that the Simms/Mann Family Foundation recognizes the potential of the Chen Lab. We will continue to focus on developing small-molecule inhibitors that target RNA modification-associated proteins like FTO, METTL14 and METTL16, which promote cancer progression and drug resistance in leukemia and solid tumors. Knowing how to turn off such proteins could eliminate blood and solid tumor cancers.”