Yu-Jui Yvonne Wan, PhD

Program Leader, Cancer Biology, University of Kansas Cancer Center
Director, Liver Center, University of Kansas Medical Center
Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology & Therapeutics, University of Kansas School of Medicine

The major focus of Dr. Wan’s research has been retinoic acid and its receptors. Retinoic acid is a well-known differentiation and anti-apoptotic reagent clinically used to treat skin disease such as psoriasis and different types of cancer. Retinoid-mediated signaling is also involved in limb morphogenesis and regeneration. In addition, RA is liver mitogen. The precursor of retinoic acid (retinyl palmitate, vitamin A) is stored in the liver, but its role in regulating liver differentiation, proliferation, metabolism and disease process is almost unknown. Dr. Wan’s research program has demonstrated the role of retinoic acid in inducing differentiation, maturation, and apoptosis of hepatoma cells. She further characterized the molecular mechanism underlying retinoic acid-mediated regulation of liver phenotype and identified the receptor for retinoic acid- retinoid x receptor alpha (RXRalpha), which is crucial to regulation of liver gene expression and control of liver phenotype (DNA and Cell Biology, 1996; JBC 1998). In 2000, she produced the first liver specific RXRalpha-deficient mouse model (MCB 2000) to study the function of RXRalpha within the liver. Because of this major breakthrough along with her follow up studies, we learned about the role of hepatic RXRalpha in lipid (JBC 200), carbohydrate (Endocrinology 2003), xenobiotic (Endocrinology 2003), and amino acid (Molecular Pharmacology 2004) metabolism and homeostasis. Recently, she further demonstrated that the RXRalpha pathway plays a pivotal role in alcohol detoxification as well as the development of alcoholic and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (JPET 2006, 2008, Tox App Pharm 2008). Dr. Wan’s laboratory was the first to identify the action of retinoic acids in regulating the expression of xenobiotic metabolism enzymes, which indicates the potential of retinoic acid in causing drug-drug interactions (Biochem Pharmacol 2006, 2008, 2009). Her recent works also illustrate the importance of hepatic RXRalpha and other nuclear receptors in carcinogenesis, liver regeneration, and programmed cell death (Hepatology 2008, 2011, JBC 2009). Her laboratory will continue focusing on analyzing the opposing effects of retinoid signaling in disease process and treatment. Her laboratory is also examining the interaction between nuclear receptors and chronic viral hepatitis.

In addition, Dr. Wan has established a pharmacogenomic program with an emphasis on ethnic difference in drug metabolism (Pharmacogenetics 2001; Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics 2001, 2006; American Journal of PharmacoGenomic 2004). Dr. Wan’s lab has identified genetic risk factors for alcohol abuse and dependence (Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 2004, 2007). Her laboratory’s publications (Alcoholism: Clinical Experimental Research 2007 and 2009) were selected as the highlights of the journal. The findings are available in EurekAlert sponsored by AAAS.

Dr. Wan received a bachelor of science degree from Taipei Medical College in Taipei, Taiwan. She went on to complete her master of science and PhD degrees in Pathology from Hahnemann University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Dr. Wan joined the University of Kansas Medical Center in 2003 as a Professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology & Therapeutics. Before that, Dr. Wan was Professor of Pathology at the University of California, Los Angeles.