Audience participating in 28th Annual Cancer Research Symposium

28th Annual Cancer Research Symposium draws big crowd

Research competition awards prizes to UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center scientists


More than 200 students, faculty, and researchers attended the 28th Annual Cancer Research Symposium highlighting innovative science underway at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. The event, held Oct. 6 and 7 in the cancer center’s auditorium, was organized into four main sessions covering:

  • Population sciences and cancer health disparities
  • Diverse career development, education and training
  • Basic and translational science
  • Clinical research
Cancer center director presenting first place poster presentation award to Menghuan Tang.
Cancer center director Primo “Lucky” Lara, Jr. presents this year’s first place poster presentation award to Menghuan Tang, representing the Li Lab.

Poster sessions detailed research underway by cancer center investigators, with more than 60 poster presentations judged by cancer center senior scientists.

“The podium and poster presentations exemplify the many talents and passions of our cancer center scientists,” said UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Primo “Lucky” Lara Jr. “Our long-standing symposium brings together top investigators devoted to solving the problem of cancer across the entire spectrum, from prevention to palliative care and from screening to survivorship.”

This year’s winner of the poster contest is a team led by postdoctoral molecular biochemistry student Menghuan Tang, representing work performed at the Yuanpei Li Lab at UC Davis. Tang and her colleagues, Zhao Ma, Tzu-yin Lin, and Yuanpei Li, won a $750 award.

The winning research involved new and improved phototherapy that led to a complete cure of oral cancer in mice. The hope is that the application of the innovative nanoplatform will translate to clinical trials involving different cancer types in humans.

“I am so proud of our team and the work we are doing in the Li lab,” said Tang, who is planning on a career devoted to curing cancer. “When I was a child growing up in China, my dad, who is a cook, wanted me to focus on a career that would make a difference in the world, so he suggested we watch science shows together. That’s when I became interested in cancer research, and I am very grateful for my biomedical education at UC Davis.”

The $500 second place prize went to Karen Zhao, an undergraduate student researcher, who led a group of collaborators from the Yamada Lab that included Joleen S. Cheah, Volkmar Heinrich, Su Hao Lo, and Soichiro Yamada. Their poster presentation was titled Force-Induced Accumulation of Tensin and LIM Proteins Along Keratin Fibers.”

Postdoctoral fellow Valentina Zavala represented the team from The Fejerman Lab, winning third place and a $300 prize. Collaborators included Xiaosong Huang, Sandro Casavilca-Zambrano, Jeannie Navarro-Vásquez, Carlos A. Castañeda, Guillermo Valencia, Zaida Morante, Monica Calderón, Julio E. Abugattas, Henry Gómez, Hugo A. Fuentes, Ruddy Liendo-Picoaga, Jose M Cotrina, Silvia P. Neciosup, Katia Roque, Jule Vásquez, Luis Mas, Marco Gálvez-Nino, Jovanny Zabaleta, Tatiana Vidaurre, and Laura Fejerman. The title of their poster presentation was Regulation of Genes Located in 6q25 by an Indigenous American Genetic Variant in Breast Cancer Patients from Peru.”

One of Thursday’s keynote presentations was by renowned researcher Elena Martinez from UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center who is an expert on cancer epidemiology and community outreach. Her talk focused on the collaboration required to build transdisciplinary research, from a population scientist’s view.

Another keynote lecture on Thursday was given by Zihai Li, a nationally recognized cancer immunologist from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, who spoke about sex bias and cancer immunotherapy.

On Friday, the David R. Gandara Lectureship on Developmental Therapeutics was awarded to Cathy Eng, a clinician scientist with a research focus on gastrointestinal malignancies from Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. Eng provided insights on the development of phase I-III clinical trials using novel therapeutics for biomarker discovery and enhanced drug utilization in colorectal, appendiceal and anal cancer patients.

“The symposium is a remarkably productive platform that brings in renown speakers, features important or emerging cancer discoveries at UC Davis, and allows for stimulating interactions to share knowledge and build relationships,” said Lara.

Symposium committee members

  • Primo N. Lara
  • Shehnaz Hussain
  • Frederick J. Meyers
  • Luis Carvajal-Carmona
  • Xiao-Jing Wang
  • Nicholas Mitsiades
  • Megan Daly

Symposium staff

  • Gina Dayton
  • Niki DeGeorge
  • Kirsten Asher
  • Rachel Rivas
  • Christian Joyce
  • Chelsey Reeves
  • Peggy Martin
  • Rui Wu
  • Connor Murphy

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 100,000 adults and children every year and access to more than 200 active clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 240 scientists at UC Davis who work collaboratively to advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Patients have access to leading-edge care, including immunotherapy and other targeted treatments. Its Office of Community Outreach and Engagement addresses disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations, and the cancer center provides comprehensive education and workforce development programs for the next generation of clinicians and scientists. For more information, visit