A major area of my research is to understand the molecular and genetic underpinnings of cancer health disparities. Based on the unique resources with a large number of black and white breast cancer patients and controls from the Women’s Circle of Health Study (WCHS; PI: Christine Ambrosone, PhD), I have developed and led a number of projects to investigate the roles played by genetic inheritance, vitamin D and host immunity in determining the differential burden of cancer morbidity and mortality between the two racial groups. In particular, I am leading a five-year $6.6 million multiple PI R01 project funded by NCI (R01 CA228156) to characterize the somatic mutational landscape of breast cancer in a total of 3,000 Black women and to examine the etiological relationships between tumor mutations and epidemiological risk factors. Moreover, I am a multiple PI on two recently funded NCI R01 projects, R01 CA247281 to investigate if immune profiles in breast tumors from Black women differ from those in White women, are associated with differentially distributed risk factors, and to more aggressive tumors as well as to survival; and R01 CA241125 to pool data and biospecimens from several existing studies to aggregate a large cohort to investigate multi-level factors contributing to the better prognosis among Asian women diagnosed with breast cancer.
My other major research area is to identify molecular and genetic predictors of cancer survival and treatment toxicities. This work is mostly based on one of the largest breast cancer survivor cohorts, the Pathways Study (PIs: Lawrence Kushi, ScD; Christine Ambrosone, PhD), which has enrolled 4,505 breast cancer patients through Kaiser Permanente Northern California (KPNC) with active follow up since 2006. My R01 award co-led with Dr. Marilyn Kwan at KPNC (R01 CA166701) was to investigate lifestyle, genetic and molecular determinants of aromatase inhibitors-induced fractures in the Pathways Study. I am also leading several large team-efforts to perform genome-wide association analyses of common genetic variants with cancer survival and toxicities (X01 HG008335, R03 CA223730, and Rally Foundation Award).
At Roswell Park, I lead a fully equipped wet laboratory capable of performing various assays and procedures suitable for population studies. As my long-term overarching goal, I am particularly enthusiastic in translational and clinical research to apply scientific findings to cancer patients for better prevention, treatment and survivorship.
I have a considerable track record in attracting federal and private foundation grants. As of June 2020, I have been awarded four R01 grants and two R03 grants from NIH as a PI or Multiple PI, as well as two research grants from private foundations. I have also collaborated with a wide network of researchers nation-wide and served as a Co-Investigator on 12+ NIH grants.
The list below shows the completed and active projects that I lead as a PI or Multiple PI:
Rally Foundation Independent Investigator Award (Yao) 07/01/2020-06/30/2021
Genetic Basis for Ethnic Disparities of Bone Toxicities in Pediatric ALL
NCI R01 CA241125 (Gomez, Yao, Kushi) 06/08/2020-05/31/2025
Insights from Asian Populations into Disparities in Breast Cancer Prognosis and Outcomes
NCI R01 CA247281 (Ambrosone, Yao, Abrams) 06/01/2020-05/30/2025
Tumor Immune Contexture and Breast Cancer Disparities: A Multi-Disciplinary Study in Women of African and European Ancestry
NCI R01 CA228156 (Yao, Palmer, Zheng, Carpten) 02/01/2019-01/31/2024
Somatic Mutations and Their Etiological Determinants for Breast Cancer in African American Women
NCI R03 CA223730 (Yao, Kelly, Zhu) 12/05/2017-11/30/2019
Genetic underpinnings of ethnic disparities in bone toxicities between Hispanic and non-Hispanic children treated for acute Lymphoblastic leukemia
NCI R01 CA166701 (Kwan, Yao) 09/01/2012-06/30/2019
Lifestyle and Molecular Factors of Bone Health in Breast Cancer Survivors
NCI R03 CA192205 (Yao) 07/15/2015-06/30/2018
Exome Array Analysis of Reproductive Aging and Breast Cancer in African American Women
Susan G. Komen CCR12225973 (Yao) 11/27/2012-11/26/2016
Noncoding RNA Genetic Variations and Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Outcomes
DOD BCRP Predoctoral Training Award (Yao) 04/10/2008-04/09/2011
Vitamin D, Vitamin D Receptor Polymorphisms, and Breast Cancer Aggressiveness in African American and European American Women.