Dr. Qing Chen leads her team down the most challenging path in cancer research

Not all cancer research is the same and some areas of research require so much effort, attention to detail, trial and error, and dedication that most scientists would shy away to pursue other projects. Fortunately, Dr. Qing Chen of the Wistar Institute does not shy away from any challenge. Dr. Chen trained as a medical doctor in China but, after med school, became fascinated with the research side of medicine. “I felt like there were a lot of diseases that we don’t know the mechanisms, which is why we don’t know the cures.” She began researching cancer for her Ph.D., then continued her work in New York City. It was in the Big Apple that Dr. Chen decided to study one of the most complex and difficult areas in cancer research: brain metastasis.

Legacy of Hope’s Scientific Review Board selected Dr. Chen’s incredible research among 100s of other projects because of its promise to yield tangible results in the near future. In September 2019, Dr. Chen received the Legacy of Hope Merit Award for her work, as well as $15,000 in funding to continue her research. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Chen to learn more about her projects and get her insights into the unique field of brain metastasis research.

“There is not enough research on brain metastasis, even though it causes so much drama for patients. There is almost no therapy to treat this disease, there is barely any information in databases for brain cancer,” Dr. Chen explains. The goal of her research is to pave new roads in controlling the spread of cancers to the brain, a condition that causes intense complications and is frequently a terminal diagnosis.

“We’re trying to understand the metastasis, how will brain tissue respond to the cancer which is attacking it. The cancer cell is the seed and the brain is the soil. The cell must get all the nutrients it needs to grow. Instead of only focusing on how to cure the cancer cells in the brain, we want to understand the communication between the brain and the cancer cells so we can cut off that communication and control the disease.”

I asked Dr. Chen why cancer spreading to the brain causes such a unique set of problems. She explained “The brain doesn’t respond to existing therapies very well. Brain cells are very unique and only exist in the brain, nowhere else in the body. Many medications do not work well in the brain because they won’t cross from the bloodstream.”

To further complicate what is already extremely complex research, Dr. Chen and her team have difficulty obtaining lab specimens with which they can perform experiments. “We need to find the right surgeons to work with us who are willing to ship us samples of brain cells with metastasis so we can conduct our experiments. Building up the kind of database we need will take a lot of work and a lot of time.

With such a laborious path ahead of her, Dr. Chen wishes she could spend every minute in her lab performing research. A perfect world of infinite research funding does not exist, however, so she spends at least half of her time writing grants, reviewing proposals, and meeting with people to help fund her research. “The cost of research has increased a lot; even an R01 grant isn’t enough. It’s frustrating when you want to experiment on something but can’t afford to do it.”

Dr. Chen did not miss an opportunity to thank Legacy of Hope and our donors for providing financial support which keeps her research moving forward. “Support from [Legacy of Hope] helps us pursue new or risky ideas which would yield tremendous results but don’t have enough evidence yet to secure National Institute of Health funding.”

Please continue your support of the most promising cancer research in Philadelphia and the countless hours researchers like Dr. Chen have dedicated. Every dollar donated to Legacy of Hope is maximized to ensure it makes the greatest impact in research as well as patient support. Donate Today.

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Nia Andrews

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Rebecca Blinn

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Carol Sollenberger

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Maree Lavo

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Bryan Lathrop

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Kimberly S. Reed

An award winning international speaker, author, corporate trainer and diversity, equality and inclusion executive, nationally recognized thought leader, expert, strategist and advisor to some of the world’s most influential organizations in global professional services, health care, financial services, consumer products and pharmaceutical industries.

Kimberly is a seasoned leader in transforming organizations into high-performing enterprises and challenging leaders to live without limits, with more than 20 years of HR, talent acquisition, and diversity & inclusion experience; successfully turning around troubled diversity practices by designing, building, leading, and shaping high-performing cultures at global organizations with robust strategies, global employee development programs and enterprise-wide initiatives that have increased revenue growth and organizational brand eminence.

Michele Redrow

Michele is a Director on the Legacy of Hope board and also serves on the Executive Committee.

mary chicorelli

Professional:  Mary is a certified city planner for Philadelphia, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association as well as the Philadelphia Bar Association, and the Pro Bono Honor Roll First Judicial District of Philadelphia.

Bio: Mary’s insight into the legal world is invaluable to Legacy of Hope, both in keeping our daily operations moving fluidly as well as making connections for our patients and their families when needed.

“Michael reached out to me about 2 years ago through mutual friends. We worked together to help a woman with stage 4 cancer get her electricity turned back on after it was shut off during the winter. I’ve been 100% supportive of Mike’s vision since then.”

joseph ruggieri, jr

Education: Bachelor’s of Science from West Chester University in Management and Finance

Bio: As a member of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.’s upper management team, Joseph brings a wealth of knowledge regarding finances, management, team-building and planning to the Legacy of Hope board. Joseph linked up with Michael, our President, and Wells Fargo began supporting Legacy of Hope annually.

“My father passed away from what started as Colon Cancer in 2015. Cancer is horrible and if there is something I can do to help others impacted I would want to be a part of it.”

David April

David is the founder of the Fishtown Beer Runners, an organization with chapters all over the world based here in Philadelphia.

dr. kevin kelly

Dr. Kevin Kelly leads Legacy of Hope’s Scientific Review Board to seek out and support the most promising cancer research in Philadelphia using a merit-based system.  He is Jefferson’s Director of Solid Tumor Oncology.

greg garber

Greg Garber is the director of Oncology Support Services at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.

Gina Mancuso

Gina’s experience as the very successful co-owner of CoreFitness, LLC coupled with her expertise in planning special events makes her the perfect Vice President for Legacy of Hope. With energy, passion, and drive that makes her seem superhuman, Gina’s connection to our mission is a personal one.

“Both my father and my dear childhood friend were diagnosed with cancer within 3 months of one another. They were surrounded and supported by friends and family throughout their battle and until their passing. No one should suffer through a diagnosis alone and, without Legacy of Hope, some people would do just that.”

Michael Rowe


Volatile Media Management’s Mover, Shaker, Changemaker Award – February 2017

Miles Mack Community Services & Leadership Honorable Mention – 2016 TJUH Emergency Department Technician of the Year, Physicians Choice Award – 2015

TJUH Emergency Department Technician of the Year, Physicians Choice Award – 2014


With his free time so limited, Michael manages to fuse his work with his other passion: running. Whether it is with the Fishtown Beer Runners, our own Team Relentless Hope, or his closest friends, Michael can often be spotted on the streets of Philadelphia keeping himself fit and active.