Dr Jenny Y Wang

My Expertise

Cancer Stem Cell Biology

Field of Research (FoR)


  • Group Leader, Children's Cancer Institute, UNSW, 2013-present
  • Research Fellow, Harvard Medical School, USA, 2005-2011

Dr Jenny Wang is Head of the Cancer and Stem Cell Laboratory. She returned to Sydney in 2011 from Harvard Medical School, where she undertook postdoctoral research in leukemia stem cell biology. The main focus of her laboratory is to develop novel therapies targeting malignant stem cells that are often resistant to...view more

  • Group Leader, Children's Cancer Institute, UNSW, 2013-present
  • Research Fellow, Harvard Medical School, USA, 2005-2011

Dr Jenny Wang is Head of the Cancer and Stem Cell Laboratory. She returned to Sydney in 2011 from Harvard Medical School, where she undertook postdoctoral research in leukemia stem cell biology. The main focus of her laboratory is to develop novel therapies targeting malignant stem cells that are often resistant to chemotherapy and that are now believed to be the root cause of treatment failure and relapse in cancer.

Stem cells have become the centre of much attention because they are capable of dividing indefinitely to produce new copies of themselves (self-renewal) and also generating multiple cell types. Genetic and epigenetic abnormalities enable malignant stem cells to hijack normal stem cell self-renewal mechanisms that multiply out of control, causing cancer and to evade treatment and regenerate new tumors through their self-renewal capacity. Targeted disruption of aberrant self-renewal represents a novel therapeutic strategy that can significantly reduce the capacity of a tumor to regenerate itself after treatment and is becoming a central focus in new drug development.

Targeted therapy

Current Funding Sources
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
Leukemia Foundation
Cancer Australia
Tour de Cure

Research goals
To understand the biology of leukemia stem cells
To identify critical drug targets for leukemia stem cell eradication
To develop effective therapies to treat poor prognosis leukemia (AML) 

Project opportunities - PhD, Masters and Honours 

Targeting of leukemia stem cells for the development of curative therapies
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a difficult-to-treat blood cancer with a 5-year survival rate of only 27% in Australia. Despite intensive chemotherapy, the majority of patients with AML relapse and ultimately die from their disease. Clinical evidence has supported the important role of leukemia stem cells in the high relapse rate of AML patients. Leukemia stem cells reside in a mostly quiescent state and as such they are resistant to chemotherapy. These cells possess several unique features such as self-renewal and escaping from cell death. Targeted elimination of leukemia stem cells is now believed to be essential for AML patients to achieve a complete remission. Our studies have identified key self-renewal pathways (Science 2010; Blood 2014; Leukemia 2016; Cancer Cell 2020) for stem cell formation and our exciting new findings of pathway inhibitors provide promising therapeutic opportunities to specifically target leukemia stem cells. This project is designed to understand the mechanisms of action of pathway inhibitors in order to develop effective stem cell-targeted therapies for aggressive AML.

Epigenetic regulation of leukemia stem cells - developing new epigenetic therapies
Epigenetic regulation of gene expression plays crucial roles in stem cell functions. Inappropriate maintenance of epigenetic ‘marks’ - that sit on the nuclear DNA of cancer cells and control the activity of genes - results in activation of oncogenic self-renewal pathways leading to the formation of leukemia stem cells and the subsequent development of leukemia. Unlike genetic alterations, epigenetic marks can be reversed by treatments with chromatin-modifying drugs, making them suitable targets for epigenetic-based therapies. Our studies have identified several new epigenetic regulators that contribute to leukemia formation and progression. This project aims at exploring epigenetic mechanisms that govern leukemia stem cell function and at discovering chromatin-modifying drugs that are capable of reversing leukemia-associated epigenetic marks. The outcome of this study will have the potential to develop novel epigenetic therapies.  

Developing RNA-based therapeutics to eradicate leukemia stem cells
The recent discovery of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) has dramatically altered our view of gene regulation in cancer. NcRNAs serve as regulatory molecules, playing a pivotal role in cancer progression and metastasis. Long ncRNAs (lncRNAs) are defined as non-protein coding transcripts longer than 200 nucleotides and have demonstrated oncogenic or tumor suppressive capabilities. We have identified several novel lncRNAs in leukemia stem cells. This study will discover the mechanism of novel lncRNAs in driving oncogenesis and develop RNA-based therapeutics for aggressive AML.

Techniques: Cell-based assays, drug response assays, molecular biology, proteomics, immunofluorescence, gene editing, single-cell RNA-seq and CITE-seq, ChIP-seq, microarray, flow cytometry, patient-derived xenograft mouse models and in vivo drug testing, etc.

Significance: Successful completion of these projects will generate new insights into cancer stem cell biology, identify novel therapeutic targets, and provide preclinical validation of therapeutic potential. These studies therefore have the potential to lead to the development of novel therapies that directly and selectively kill cancer stem cells, which are now considered to be the root cause of tumor resistance to chemotherapy, relapse and ultimate disease progression.

Selected Publications

  • Salik BYi HHassan NSantiappillai N Vick BConnerty P Duly ATrahair TWoo AJBeck DLiu TSpiekermann KJeremias IWang JKavallaris MHaber MNorris MDLiebermann DAD'Andrea RJMurriel CWang JY (2020) Targeting RSPO3-LGR4 Signaling for Leukemia Stem Cell Eradication in Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Cancer Cell. 2020. 38:263-278. (IF 26.6)

  • Lynch JR, Salik B, Connerty P, Vick B, Leung H, Pijning A, Jeremias I, Spiekermann K, Trahair T, Liu T, Haber M, Norris MD, Woo AJ, Hogg P, Wang J and Wang JY (2019) JMJD1C-mediated metabolic dysregulation contributes to HOXA9-dependent leukemogenesis. Leukemia. 2019. 33:1400-1410. (IF 10.24)
  • Gonzales-Aloy E, Connerty P, Salik B, Liu B, Woo AJ, Haber M, Norris MD, Wang J and Wang JY. (2019) miR-101 suppresses the development of MLL-rearranged acute myeloid leukemia. Haematologica. 2019. 104:e296-e299. (IF 9.09)
  • Wong M, Sun Y, Xi Z, Milazzo G, Poulos RC, Bartenhagen C, Bell JL, Mayoh C, Ho N, Tee AE, Chen X, Li Y, Ciaccio R, Liu PY, Jiang CC, Lan Q, Jayatilleke N, Cheung BB, Haber M, Norris MD, Zhang XD, Marshall GM, Wang JY, Hüttelmaier S, Fischer M, Wong JWH, Xu H, Giovanni Perini, Qihan Dong, George RE, Liu T (2019) JMJD6 is a tumorigenic factor and therapeutic target in neuroblastoma. Nature Communications. 2019. 10:3319. (IF 11.88)
  • Liu P, Tee A, Milazzo G, Hannan K, Maag J, Mondal S, Atmadibrata B, Bartonicek N, Peng H, Ho N, Mayoh CM, Ciaccio R, Sun Y, Henderson M, Gao J, Everaert C, Hulme A, Wong M, Lan Q, Cheung B, Shi L, Wang JY, Simon T, Fischer M, Zhang XD, Marshall G, Norris M, Haber M, Vandesompele J, Li J, Mestdagh P, Hannan R, Dinger M, Perini G, and Liu T (2019) The long noncoding RNA lncNB1 promotes tumorigenesis by interacting with ribosomal protein RPL35. Nature Communications. 2019. 10:5026. (IF 11.88)
  • Woo AJ, Patry C, Ghamari A, Pregernig G, Zheng K, Piers T, Hibbs M, Li JK, Fidalgo M, Wang JY, Lee J, Leedman PJ, Wang J, Fraenkel E, and Cantor AB (2019) Zfp281 (ZBP-99) plays a functionally redundant role with Zfp148 (ZBP-89) during erythroid development. Blood Advances. 2019. 3:2499-2511. (IF 4.58)
  • Wong MK, Tee AE, Milazzo G, Bell JL, Poulos RC, Atmadibrata B, Sun Y, Jing D, Ho N, Ling D, Liu PY, Zhang XD, Hüttelmaier S, Wong JW, Wang JY, Polly P, Perini G, Scarlett CJ, Liu T (2017) The histone methyltransferase DOT1L promotes neuroblastoma by regulating gene transcription. Cancer Research 2017. 77:2522-2533. (IF 9.7)
  • Sun Y, Atmadibrata B, Yu D, Wong MKK, Liu B, Ho N, Ling D, Tee AE, Wang JY, Mungrue IN, Liu PY, Liu T. (2017) Up-regulation of LYAR induces neuroblastoma cell proliferation and survival. Cell Death & Differentiation. 2017. 24:1645-1654. (IF 8.35)
  • Lynch JR, Yi H, Casolari DA, Voli F, Gonzales-Aloy E, Fung TK, Liu B, Brown A, Liu T, Haber M, Norris MD, Lewis ID, So CWE, D’Andrea RJ, Wang JY (2016) Gaq signaling is required for the maintenance of MLL-AF9 induced acute myeloid leukemia. Leukemia 2016. 30:1745-1748. (IF 10.24)
  • Lynch JR, Wang JY (2016) G protein-coupled receptor signaling in stem cells and cancer. Int J Mol Sci 2016. 17: 707. (IF 4.21)
  • Dietrich PA, Yang C, Leung HH, Lynch JR, Gonzales E, Liu B, Haber M, Norris MD, Wang J, Wang JY (2014) GPR84 sustains aberrant β-catenin signaling in leukemic stem cells for maintenance of MLL leukemogenesis. Blood. 2014. 124: 3284-3294. (IF 16.5)
  • Lane SW*, Wang JY*, Lo Celso C*, Ragu C, Bullinger L, Sykes SM, Ferraro F, Shterental S, Lin CP, Gilliland DG, Scadden DT, Armstrong SA, Williams DA (2011) Differential niche and Wnt requirements during acute myeloid leukemia progression. Blood 2011. 118: 2849-2856. * equal contribution. (IF 16.5)
  • Wang JY, Krivtsov AV, Sinha AU, North TE, Goessling W, Feng Z, Zon LI, Armstrong SA (2010) The Wnt/β-catenin pathway is required for the development of leukemia stem cells in AML. Science 327: 1650-1653. (IF 41.8)
  • Krivtsov AV, Wang JY, Feng Z, Armstrong SA (2009) Gene expression profiling of leukemia stem cells. Methods Mol Biol 538: 231-246. doi:10.1007/978-1-59745-418-6_11.
  • Wang JY, Armstrong SA (2008) Cancer: inappropriate expression of stem cell programs. Cell Stem Cell 2: 297-299. (IF 20.86)
  • Wang Y, Armstrong SA (2007) Genome-wide SNP analysis in cancer: leukemia shows the way. Cancer Cell 11: 308-309. (IF 26.6)
  • Krivtsov AV, Twomey D, Feng Z, Stubbs MC, Wang JY, Faber J, Levine JE, Wang J, Hahn WC, Gilliland DG, Golub TR, Armstrong SA (2006) Transformation from committed progenitor to leukaemia stem cell initiated by MLL-AF9. Nature 442: 818–822. (IF 42.7)
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Lowy Cancer Research Centre G25
UNSW Medicine,
University of New South Wales,
Sydney, NSW 2052