Fickle and fast, cancer knows no limits. Neither should the research aimed at wiping the disease out.
Qing-Xiang (Amy) Sang, FSU associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, likens the diseaserather a family of diseases from the curable to the deadlyto influenza. Like the flu, cancer frustrates those who would obliterate it by being unpredictable. Its genes mutate; the cells change shape; they are sensitive to their surroundings yet defiantly hardy.
Sang has already earned recognition in a fiercely competitive field for identifying two protein enzymes in a family of metalloproteinases. On the strength of her discoveries, FSU already has filed a number of patent applications.
These protein “scissors” cut connective tissue barriers surrounding cancer cells. The cleaving action may allow the cells to roam the body through blood and lymphatic circulation systems and form tumors in new places, making the disease far more difficult to treat.
Sang’s research has shown that cancer cells produce a metalloproteinase known as MMP-26, which she discovered. But with few exceptions, it is normally absent in adults who don’t have cancer.
A major part of Sang’s work now focuses on how to stop MMP-26 from letting cancer cells loose in the body. This direction has the potential to turn a deadly cancer into a manageable disease.
Keeping up with the latest in the field, Sang has also expanded her program in new research directions such as proteomics and biomarker discovery. But equally important to Sang is her role as a teacher.
Her reputation as a dedicated mentor attracts top graduate and undergraduate students to her lab. In line with her no-limits philosophy, these students come from chemistry, biology, biophysics and other areas, contributing crucial diversity to the field.
“We definitely need more young researchers to get into cancer research from all disciplines,” Sang said. “Good research can have no boundaries.” C.S.
Her fervent dedication to cancer research and teaching has earned Amy Sang a constant stream of top-notch students, grants and awards at FSU, including the First-Year Assistant Professor Award and Developing Scholar Award. She holds a doctorate in cell biology and anatomy from Georgetown University.