Rosner Lab awarded Ullman Family Team Science Award for innovative breast cancer research

The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center has announced that a team of researchers, jointly led by Raymond Moellering, PhD, Marsha Rosner, PhD, Scott Oakes, MD, and Xiaoyang Wu, PhD, has won the Ullman Family Team Science Award for their proposal to investigate novel therapies for triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive and difficult-to-treat form of the disease.

The Ullman Family Team Science Award recognizes researchers who use a collaborative approach to develop innovative approaches to treat cancer. The winning team, which includes researchers from diverse scientific backgrounds, aims to study potential treatments for triple-negative breast cancer, which lacks the three major breast cancer drug targets (estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and HER2 protein).

Triple-negative breast cancer is notoriously hard to treat, as it does not respond to hormone therapy or the targeted, anti-cancer drug Herceptin. Treatments are limited primarily to radiation and chemotherapy, which can be hard on the patient. The proposed research project aims to gather preliminary data on a novel therapy and drug delivery system that could lead to a more effective and less toxic treatment of aggressive breast cancers.

The team will investigate methods to block certain transcription factors and a cell-permeable drug delivery system, which they will test in models of triple-negative breast cancer. The investigation draws on the expertise of a seven-member team of researchers representing a range of disciplines, including breast cancer cell biology, clinical trials of breast cancer therapies, and outcomes for breast cancer patients.

The Ullman Team Science Award provides financial support to the team to collect the data necessary to compete for federal grants, such as a National Cancer Institute Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant and National Institute of Health Research Program Project Grants (P01s). These grants support the development of novel approaches for treating cancer and improving patient outcomes.

The Ullman family has a long history of supporting cancer research at the University of Chicago. The award was presented in memory of Donald Ullman, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. The family established the Ullman Family Scholars Fund in Cancer Immunology, the Ullman Family Fund in Cancer, and the Ullman Family Team Science Award in gratitude for the outstanding care Donald received from the University of Chicago Medicine.

The winning team’s research has the potential to significantly advance the field of breast cancer treatment and improve outcomes for patients.

Dr. Rosner Named Distinguished Service Professor

We are pleased to announce that Marsha Rich Rosner has been appointed as the Charles B. Huggins Distinguished Service Professor in the Ben May Department for Cancer Research and the College. The Distinguished Service Professorship is one of the highest honors awarded to faculty members at the University of Chicago. This prestigious title is reserved for scholars who have demonstrated exceptional achievements in their fields of research and have made significant contributions to the university and the broader academic community. Distinguished Service Professors are recognized as leaders in their disciplines, and their work has a profound impact on advancing knowledge and understanding in their respective fields. This honor is a testament to the outstanding academic accomplishments and unwavering dedication to excellence that characterizes the University of Chicago’s faculty.

Rosner Lab at the 2022 Midstates Consortium Undergraduate Research Symposium

We are proud to have Thomas and Emily present their latest findings at the 2022 Midstates Consortium Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Biological Sciences and Psychology! The conference featured 110 students from the 12 universities of the Midstates Consortium.

Thomas and Emily’s research accomplishments stood out, and they were among the 32 students selected across the Midstates Consortium to present oral presentations. Thomas presented his findings on post-translational modifications that impact BACH1’s function as a metastatic transcription factor. Emily utilized bioinformatics to unravel BACH1’s role as an epigenetic regulator in cancer cells. Their presentations were well received by the audience. Both of their research projects were supported in part by the UChicago BSCD Summer Fellowship. Congratulations!

About the Midstates Consortium for Math and Science

The Midstates Consortium for Mathematics and Science was founded by the Pew Charitable Trusts in 1988. The Consortium seeks to improve undergraduate science and mathematics education by providing high-quality and flexible professional development opportunities for students and faculty at the member institutions. Major activities include two annual symposia on undergraduate research hosted at Washington University and the University of Chicago, faculty development workshops, and exchange programs that support visits of students and faculty members to other member schools to give presentations or to enhance research collaborations.

Undergraduate Symposium

Each fall for more than 10 years the two research universities in the Consortium, Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Chicago, host meetings designed for undergraduates to present the results of their own research projects to their peers and some consortium faculty. Washington University and the University of Chicago alternate hosting these meetings for students whose research involves the biological sciences and psychology and students whose work falls under the broader umbrella of physical sciences, mathematics and computer science. Students present in both oral and poster sessions. Also, each meeting includes a graduate student panel to answer questions from the undergraduates about applying, selecting and going to graduate school in the natural sciences. In the past few years both meetings have attracted nearly 100 students and more than a dozen faculty each.

Rosner Lab Receives NCI R01 Grant

We are excited to announce new funding from the National Cancer Institute. This 5-year grant supports our studies on the tumor microenvironment, specifically hypoxia, in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Hypoxia is a major cause of resistance to therapies. Thus, we hope to identify mechanisms to suppress the hypoxia stress response and reveal new paths to sensitize TNBC tumors to therapy. Please contact us if you are interested in post-doc opportunities! Candidates with expertise in bioinformatics are particularly encouraged to apply.

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Congratulations to our summer student Llyanna Mercado!

We celebrated Llyanna’s research achievements this summer at the Chicago EYES on Cancer and Diversity Research Symposium. Llyanna is one of several talented high school students from the Chicago area that were selected as summer research fellows. We had a great time hosting her this summer. Llyanna impressed the audience with her poster presentation, thanks to her hard work and Leticia’s mentorship!

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Cannabidiol as a potential COVID-19 treatment

The Rosner Lab is pleased to announce our latest finding on bioRxiv (currently in peer-review): Cannabidiol Inhibits SARS-CoV-2 Replication and Promotes the Host Innate Immune Response. We demonstrate that cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive product of the cannabis plant, inhibits SARS-CoV-2 viral replication. CBD is a FDA-approved drug for an epilepsy disorder and is also used by millions of Americans as an alternative treatment for anxiety and other health conditions.

Key findings:

  • CBD acts after viral entry to block viral replication as demonstrated by loss of the viral spike protein and loss of viral RNA.
  • CBD induces expression of interferon genes involved in the host innate immune response to SARS-CoV-2 but inhibits viral-induced cytokine expression that could lead to a deleterious cytokine storm.
  • CBD inhibits replication of at least one other coronavirus, MHV, raising the possibility that it may inhibit other pathogenic human coronaviruses that could arise in the future.
  • A metabolite of CBD, 7-OH-CBD, is an effective inhibitor of SARS-CoV-2 at a concentration comparable to that in human plasma after patients took an FDA-approved CBD oral solution.
  • Analysis of a cohort of patients taking FDA-approved CBD showed up to a 10-fold decreased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection compared to a matched set of control patients.


We do not recommend self-administration of CBD. We also cannot recommend any particular products. We advocate a clinical trial(s) to determine CBD’s effect in human patients. We also advocate a COVID-19 vaccine when one is eligible/doses are available.


We Are fighting against COVID-19

The Rosner Lab is proud to receive the Vision Grant from the University’s Big Ideas Generator to conduct COVID-19 research. Together with our collaborators at the Biological Sciences Division and the Medical Center, we’ve adopted a three-pronged approach aiming to thwart coronavirus infection at the transcriptomic, proteomics and metabolomic levels. Preliminary work started before the funding was granted, and we are currently pursuing several leads. The Vision Grant allows us to continue to fight against COVID-19 with our expertise in early host stress response networks.

About the Big Ideas Generator

Big Ideas Generator (BIG) powers bold, early-stage projects at UChicago that have potential to grow into significant research agendas. The fund’s goal is to identify and support path-breaking ideas that have the potential to become novel and robust areas of research but are too nascent for traditional sources of funding. Winning proposals will demonstrate substantial intellectual merit and novelty of the idea, as well as the potential for entrenching the research program at the University in the future.

Three tiers of grants are available:

Workshop grants to plan for large-scale, inter-disciplinary initiatives – up to $5K

Seed grants for exploratory research work – up to $15K 

Vision grants for research-intensive projects – up to $75K

Winning proposals will also receive strategic research development support for up to two years, targeting follow-up federal funding opportunities. Proposals will undergo a rigorous review process by an internal Faculty Advisory Board review. Funding decisions will be made by the Faculty advisory Board, chaired by Prof. Ka Yee Lee, Vice Provost for Research. The BIG initiative reaffirms the University’s commitment to supporting novel, potentially risky ideas that could have a transformative intellectual impact.


Big Congrats to Our Summer Student Xiaohe “Amy” Xie!

Today we celebrate the end of Amy’s fruitful summer doing research with us. Amy is a rising senior student at Peking University and she spent two months here as one of the 2019 International Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates Program scholars. Under the mentorship of Peter and Ali, Amy has generated lots of data and showcased her excellent critical thinking skills and technical prowess with an impressive presentation in front of UChicago faculty and students. We’re so happy to have met her and we wish her all the best with her graduate school applications!

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Celebrating Jiyoung’s New Job at the George Washington University

Congratulations to Dr. Jiyoung Lee for accepting her new job offer at the GWU! Starting this September, Jiyoung will join the George Washington University as an assistant professor at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine. On behalf of the lab, Dr. Rosner presented a special mug to Jiyoung as a celebratory gift. Andrea brought quiche, lemon curd parfait and cupcakes all made by herself. They are absolutely amazing!

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Payal Published a New Paper!

Payal’s paper “Metabolically activated adipose tissue macrophages link obesity to triple-negative breast cancer” was just published in Journal of Experimental Medicine! The paper is a great showcase of her thesis project.