Author: Yilun Deng | Category: Final Words... | Cancer Biology | Cancer Biology | March 04, 2016
Congratulations to Yilun Deng in the Cancer Biology track of the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program for completing her dissertation on "Function
of the Transmembrane Protein 127 Tumor Suppressor Gene in the Endosome and
Please tell me about yourself, why did you pick
UT Health Science Center, and your program.
I obtained my BMED (bachelor of medicine, equivalent of MD
degree in the US) degree in China in 2010. During my clinical training as a
medical student, I felt frustrated that a lot of times there were only very
limited treatment options for patients with extreme diseases including cancer.
Sometimes we were able to pinpoint the diagnosis but still had to tell the
patients “I’m sorry but you’ll have to go through extremely harsh treatments
which may or may not help you.”
It is then that I realize that understanding
more about the biology underlying the disease is required for us to eventually
apply this knowledge to clinical practice and really help these patients. That’s
why turned to biomedical research and chose UT health science because of its
renowned research atmosphere and the cancer biology program.
Please provide a few sentences summarizing your dissertation.
What was the experience like for you?
My study focuses on characterizing the
function of a newly identified tumor suppressor gene TMEM127 and its role in
regulating multiple oncogenic pathways through regulating the endosomal system.
It is not an easy journey. I had three
different directions to pursue in the beginning of my study and the first two
turned out to be negative. So I was really frustrated for wasting a lot of time
and was afraid of getting negative results repeatedly. I’m glad my PI is always
really supportive and guided me through the tough time. In the end the last
direction turned out to be a great success and I was able to achieve a lot. It
is the difficulties that make the achievement more precious.
Why are you passionate about your research
topic? How did you first become interested in it?
I joined the program in 2010 determined to
study cancer biology. So when I first encountered Dr.Dahia’s research I was
immediately caught by her experience using integrated genetics tool to study
When I rotated in her lab, I was introduced to this newly
identified tumor suppressor gene TMEM127. Dahia lab identified this gene in
2010 and it’s associated with multiple human tumors with its function largely
unknown. I got really interested in this project because it provides me with
exactly the experience I was looking for.
Understanding the biology of a
previously unknown gene, the mutation of which leads to tumor development, is
the first and critical step towards developing therapeutic intervention to
conquer this disease. I am really glad I chose the Dahia lab and this awesome
What was your best memory during graduate school
or what did you learn?
There are many great memories here in
graduate school and the best of them should be the time I spent with my UTHSCSA
Sometimes it can be tough living in a different country away from
home by myself, and my friends are my second family here. We went through up
and downs of graduate school and shared important moments of our lives
together. They are really best memories here.
Now that I have completed my dissertation
project, there are still many interesting leads I want to pursue following my
project. I want to continue exploring some exciting possibilities suggested by
Any advice for your fellow graduate students?
Negative results are also really important.
They will help you narrow down your directions and sometimes reveal the real
finding. Don’t be scared by them because they are your ally as well. Stay
positive and carry on!
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