Chia-Wei Cheng, PhD, Awarded V Foundation Grant

May 14, 2023


Chia-Wei Cheng, PhD

Chia-Wei Cheng, PhD, has recently been awarded a V Foundation grant for her innovative research in the interface of nutritional and gene regulatory networks in cancer. Dr. Cheng, a member of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and assistant professor of genetics and development, has assembled a multi-disciplinary research team to investigate the food-gene regulatory networks involved in driving tumor initiation and development of early-onset colorectal cancer. 

The V Foundation has a longstanding history as a top supporter of cancer research, enabling scientists to lead critical advances in our understanding and treatment of cancer. With the foundation’s support, HICCC researchers are bringing about exciting advancements for our patients. In recent years, V Foundation has supported a dozen HICCC members whose work spans a range of areas. From advancing gastroenterology cancer research and novel therapeutics to investigating patient response to immunotherapy, these projects are helping to revolutionize and advance our knowledge of cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.  

With this support from V Foundation, Dr. Cheng, who is also a faculty member at Columbia Stem Cell Initiative, is aiming to better understand the mechanisms linking pediatric inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to the development of colorectal cancer in young adults. Dr. Cheng and her collaborators are addressing a recent trend pointing to the rise of childhood IBD and associated young-onset colorectal cancer in patients younger than 50 years old. To date, the Cheng lab has begun investigating how foods with a high glycemic index, such as sugary drinks and high carbohydrate foods, become one major risk factor for both early-onset diseases. Her project aims to reveal the food-gene regulatory networks responsible for the diet-induced vulnerability to inflammation and cancer at a young age. The hope is that this research could lead to the identification of therapeutic targets that will inform novel preventive and curative strategies to combat inflammatory diseases and cancer. 

Dr. Cheng joined the faculty at Columbia in 2021, following postdoctoral training at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Her lab uses genetic mouse models, organoid systems and transplantation experiments to identify and characterize metabolic gene/protein features and metabolite signaling pathways involved in intestinal stem cell function and cells’ adaptation to diet. Her lab also is working on projects investigating the therapeutic potential of this approach in treating diabetes and age-related degenerative diseases.