Qing Chen, MD, PhD, Named Merit Award Recipient

Qing Chen, M.D., Ph.D., took a different path to research than most others.

Dr. Chen began her medical career as a clinician. “I knew I was helping people by treating their diseases, but I knew that to make a bigger impact we’d have to find a way to prevent or cure these diseases, especially cancer.”

That mindset brought her to the United States, where she earned her Ph.D. from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., and continued her training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in N.Y.C.

Dr. Chen originally promised her mom that she would return home to China but has since found a home here in Philadelphia – The Wistar Institute.

In 2015, Dr. Chen opened her own lab, focusing on the spread of cancer from primary tumors, such as breast cancer, to other areas of the body, specifically the brain.

“We are trying to determine how cancer cells communicate with their surroundings. The environment they’re in and the way they communicate is allowing them to spread,” said Dr. Chen. Her hope is that one day, communications can be cut off to slow or stop the disease.

Dr. Chen is thankful that Legacy of Hope was open to supporting her lab.

“New research and new labs can be considered ‘high risk.’ Without a record as a primary investigator, it’s hard to get big grants. You don’t have the reputation yet to back up the investment,” Dr. Chen said.

The federal grant environment can often be conservative, as they tend to focus on research with a proven track record and extensive preliminary data. “Foundation grants like the Legacy of Hope Merit Award allow researchers to think outside of the box and approach situations from a new angle,” Dr. Chen noted. These grants allow researchers to gather preliminary data that will lead to a more mature project, the kind of project funded by the larger federal grants.

Her work has made an impression on Dario C. Altieri, M.D., president and CEO of The Wistar Institute.

“Dr. Chen is a brilliant scientist who dedicates her research to one of the biggest challenges for survival of breast cancer patients: brain metastasis,” said Dr. Altieri. “We need more tools to target metastasis and philanthropic support from organizations like Legacy of Hope is critical to help Dr. Chen’s lab lay the foundation for innovative and life-saving approaches to patient care.”

To continue to support researchers like Drs. Chen and Capparelli, Legacy of Hope needs your help. Consider joining us for PHL24, a fundraiser that will benefit local doctors and families who are fighting cancer.

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