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Cheng Laboratory

Nikki Cheng, PhD

Nikki Cheng, PhD

Associate Professor
Division of Cancer and Developmental Biology

PhD: Vanderbilt University 2002
Post-doctoral: Vanderbilt University, 2003-2008

Research Focus: Tumor microenvironment, Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in women, with over 1.3 million new cases diagnosed annually in the world.  Despite advances in treatment, disease recurrence remains high, up to 56% for patients diagnosed with stage III breast cancer.   Metastatic occurrence often accompanies disease relapse, contributing to an 80% mortality rate, and estimated 450,000 deaths worldwide.  Treatment of breast cancer is complicated by the presence of different molecular subtypes including  Luminal A, Luminal B, Her2 overexpressing (Her2+) and Basal-like breast cancers. The mechanisms that regulate progression of these breast cancer subtypes still remain poorly understood. The long-term goals of our research program are to understand the role of and mechanisms of inflammation in early and late stage breast cancer progression, and identify new biomarkers to prevent or treat invasive breast cancer.

Chemokines are small soluble molecules (8kda), which form molecular gradients to mediate homing of immune cells to tissues during inflammation.  Chemokine signal to seven transmembrane receptors that couple to G protein dependent and independent pathways to promote cell migration. In particular, CCL2 and CXCL1 chemokines and their receptors tend to be overexpressed in breast cancer tissues.  We and other have demonstrated that these chemokine pathways regulate immune cell recruitment to tumor tissues, but also regulate signaling directly to breast carcinoma cells to enhance  tumor growth, survival and invasion.  We use animal models, cell culture systems, molecular biology and biochemistry approaches to understand the role of chemokines and inflammation in breast cancer. Projects in the lab include:  1) investigating how chemokines regulate metabolism in early stage breast cancer, 1) understanding how chemokines modulate systemic effects of breast cancer to promote muscle wasting, and 3) developing new model systems and assays to measure immune responses in cancer using novel technologies. 

Wei Fang, PhD, Senior scientist 

Nadia Alissa, Graduate Student  

Marcela Medrano, Research Assistant  

Paige Cote, Research Assistant 

Rebecca Brodine, Part Time Research Assistant (undergraduate) 


Recent Publications

Fang, Wei., Acevedo, Diana., Smart, Curtis., Zinda, Brandon., Alissa, Nadia., Warren, Kyle., Brummer, Gage., Fraga, Garth., Huang, Li-Ching., Shyr, Yu., Li, Wei., Xie, Lu., Staggs, Vincent., Hong, Yan., Behbod, Fariba., Cheng, Nikki. (2021). Expression of CCL2/CCR2 signaling proteins in breast carcinoma cells is associated with invasive progression. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 8708.PMC8062684, 33888841 

 Gage Brummer, Wei Fang, Curtis Smart, Brandon Zinda, Nadia Alissa, Cory Berkland, David Miller, Nikki Cheng, CCR2 signaling in breast carcinoma cells promotes tumor growth and invasion by promoting CCL2 and suppressing CD154 effects on the angiogenic and immune microenvironments. 2020 Mar;39(11):2275-2289. doi: 10.1038/s41388-019-1141-7. Epub 2019 Dec 11. PMC7071973.

Qingting Hu, Megan Meyers, Wei Fang, Min Yao, Gage Brummer, Justin Hawj, Nikki Cheng. Role of ALDH1A1 and HTRA2 expression in CCL2/CCR2-mediated breast cancer cell growth and invasion. Biol Open. 2019 Jun 28;8(7) DOI:10.1242/bio.040873 PMC6679398

Min Yao, Wei Fang, Curtis Smart, Qingting Hu, Shixia Huang, Nehemiah Alvarez, Patrick Fields, Nikki Cheng. CCR2 chemokine receptors enhance growth and cell cycle progression of breast cancer cells through SRC and PKC activation. Molecular Cancer Research, DOI: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-18-0750 Published OnlineFirst. November 16, 2018. PMC6359961

PubMed Publications

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Contact Us

Nikki Cheng, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Division of Cancer and Developmental Biology
University of Kansas Medical Center
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
3901 Rainbow Blvd., Mailstop 3045
Kansas City, KS 66160
Lab: Lied 3001
P: 913-945-6773 / Lab:913-945-6772 / Fax: 913-945-6650

KU School of Medicine

University of Kansas Medical Center
Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
Mail Stop 3045
3901 Rainbow Boulevard
Kansas City, KS 66160
Phone: 913-588-7070
Fax: 913-588-7073