Meet the Principle Investigator

Huocong Huang, M.D., Ph.D.

Huocong Huang, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Huocong Huang received his medical degree from Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from University of Nebraska Medical Center. His graduate research was mentored by Dr. Keith R. Johnson, focusing on the signaling transduction and protein interaction of collagen-induced cadherin switching. Using pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) as model, he identified the collagen-induced cadherin switching was mediated by a protein complex consisting of the Discoidin Domain Receptor 1 (DDR1), Pyk2 and Shc1. This work has illustrated the molecular mechanism of a cell plasticity event driven by a major extracellular matrix component in the tumor microenvironment.

In 2016, he joined Dr. Rolf Brekken’s laboratory at UT Southwestern Medical Center for postdoctoral training. His postdoctoral research focused on two major parts: 1. Elucidate the function of stromal signaling and exploit their therapeutic potential for cancer therapy; 2. Identify the heterogeneity, function and cell of origin of cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) in PDA. PDA is a highly complex and dynamic ecosystem featuring numerous CAFs. To understand the heterogeneity of CAFs, Dr. Huocong Huang performed single cell RNA sequencing in different stages of PDA in genetically engineered mouse models to comprehensive characterize the heterogeneity of CAFs disease progression. This study led to the identification of a unique CAF subtype characterized by the expression of MHC Class II molecules called antigen-presenting CAFs (apCAFs). Moreover, he found that apCAFs were derived from mesothelial cells and had important direct immune-regulating function in PDA.

In 2022, Dr. Huang joined the faculty at UT Southwestern Medical Center as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery and Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology Research. He is the recipient of the NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00).