Nikki Cheng, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, 2002
Postdoctoral, Vanderbilt University, 2003-2008

My laboratory is interested in understanding the role of inflammation during breast cancer progression. Chemokines are a family of soluble proteins which signal through seven transmembrane G coupled receptors and regulate immune cell recruitment during wound healing, infection and cancer.   CCL2 and CXCL1 chemokines are co-expressed in breast cancer and may also regulate fibroblast interactions with cancer cells, and with other cell types in the microenvironment to promote tumor progression.  We analyze patient samples, mouse models of cancer and cultured cells using histologic, gene profiling, molecular biology, biochemical approaches to address the following questions:

  • What is the clinical relevance of chemokine expression in breast cancer ?
  • How do fibroblasts and immune cells regulate breast cancer progression?
  • How do chemokines regulate interactions among immune cells, fibroblasts and cancer cells during breast cancer progression?
  • What are the biological effects of targeting chemokine pathways in breast cancer?

Our long-term goals are to identify new prognostic markers and therapeutic targets for the prevention or treatment of invasive breast cancer.

Selected Publications

Min Yao, Curtis Smart, Qingting Hu, Nikki Cheng Continuous delivery of neutralizing antibodies elevate CCL2 levels in mice bearing MCF10CA1d breast tumor xenografts. Translational Oncology. 2017 vol 10. 734-743  DOI information: 10.1016/j.tranon.2017.06.009

Min Yao, Elaine Yu, Diana Lambert, Vincent Staggs, Fang Fan, Nikki Cheng.  Elevated expression of Chemokine C-C Ligand 2 in stroma is associated with recurrent Basal-like breast cancers. 2016 Modern Pathology .Epub ahead of print 10.1038/modpathol.2016.78 Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 27125354.  

Wei Bin Fang, Min Yao, Gage Brummer, Nabil Alhakamy, Cory Berkland, Nikki Cheng.Targeted gene silencing of CCL2 inhibits triple negative breast cancer progression by blocking cancer stem cell renewal and M2 macrophage recruitment. Oncotarget. 2016 Jun 7. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.9885. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 27283985.  

Wei Bin Fang, Min Yao, Iman Jokar, Nabil Alhakamy, Cory Berkland, Nikki Cheng. The CCL2 chemokine is a negative regulator of autophagy and necrosis in luminal B breast cancer cells. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.2015. Apr;150(2):309-20 PMID:25744294              

Wei Bin Fang, Benford Mafuvadze, Min Yao, An Zou, Mike Portsche, Nikki Cheng. TGF-b negatively regulates CXCL1 chemokine expression in mammary fibroblasts through enhancement of Smad2/3 and suppression of HGF/c-Met signaling mechanisms. 2015 PLOS One Aug 7;10(8):e0135063. PMID:21374085, PMCID: PMC3373018

Last modified: Oct 24, 2017

Nikki Cheng, Ph.D.


Nikki Cheng, Ph.D.
Associate Professor