Haining Yang, MD, PhD

Haining Yang, MD, PhD

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Full Member, Cancer Biology Program, University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center

Academic Appointment(s):
Professor (Researcher), University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

MD, Shandong Medical University, P.R. China
PhD, Shandong University, P.R. China


2018 - iMig (International Mesothelioma Research Group) Research Award
2008 - Landon AACR Innovator Award for International Collaboration in Cancer Research
2005 - EU Marie Curie Scholarship by the European Commission Marie Curie Actions Program

Research Focus

Dr. Haining Yang's research work focuses on the pathogenesis of mesothelioma, a malignancy often related to exposure to asbestos or other carcinogenic mineral fibers. Her research goal is to find novel strategies for mesothelioma early detection, prevention, and therapy. During years of study, Dr. Yang has discovered some key mechanisms of asbestos-induced carcinogenesis. She found the important role of the inflammatory mediator, High Mobility Group Box Protein-1 (HMGB1), which is released by damaged mesothelial cells and macrophages in response to asbestos exposure, as the “master switch” that initiates the inflammatory reaction, which favors asbestos carcinogenesis and the growth of mesothelioma. She found that mesothelioma cells actively secrete HMGB1 and that targeting HMGB1 inhibits tumor growth and progression. Moreover, She discovered that HMGB1 and its isoforms are sensitive and specific biomarkers for asbestos exposure and mesothelioma diagnosis.

Besides the studies on HMGB1 and asbestos carcinogenesis, Dr. Yang in collaboration with Dr. Michele Carbone, discovered that heterozygous germline BAP1 mutations predispose to malignant mesothelioma. These findings opened a new research field studying the mechanisms of gene-environment interaction in causing mesothelioma, and led to the discovery of a new cancer syndrome that was named the "BAP1 cancer syndrome". They further elucidated the molecular mechanisms of how BAP1 mutations modulate disease penetrance, influence asbestos carcinogenesis and lead to mesothelioma predisposition.

Dr. Yang's research is funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the V-Foundation and the Department of Defense (DoD). Early in her career, Dr. Yang received the EU Marie Curie Scholarship from the European Commission Marie Curie Actions Program. She was one of the recipients of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Innovative Landon Award for International Collaboration in Cancer Research in 2008. She also received the iMig Research Award in 2018. She has two approved and two pending patents.

Selected Publications

Xue J, Patergnani S, Giorgi C, Suarez J, Goto K, Bononi A, Tanji M, Novelli F, Pastorino S, Xu R, Caroccia N, Dogan AU, Pass HI, Tognon M, Pinton P, Gaudino G, Mak TW, Carbone M, Yang H. (2020). Asbestos induces mesothelial cell transformation via HMGB1-driven autophagy. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA;117(41): 25543-25552. PMID: 32999071.

Carbone M, Arron ST, Beutler B, Bononi A, Cavenee W, Cleaver JE, Croce CM, D’Andrea A, Foulkes WD, Gaudino G, Groden JL, Henske EP, Hickson ID, Hwang PM, Kolodner RD, Mak TW, Malkin D, Monnat RJ Jr, Novelli F, Pass HI, Petrini JH, Schmidt LS, Yang H. (2020). Tumour predisposition and cancer syndromes as models to study gene X environment interactions. Nat Rev Cancer,20:533-549, (Perspective). doi:10.1038/s41568-020-0265-y.

Carbone M, Adusumilli PS, Alexander HR Jr, Baas P, Bardelli F, Bononi A, Bueno R, Felley-Bosco E, Galateau-Salle F, Jablons D, Mansfield AS, Minaai M, de Perrot M, Pesavento P, Rusch V, Severson DT, Taioli E, Tsao A, Woodard G, Yang H, Zauderer MG, Pass HI. (2019). Mesothelioma: Scientific clues for prevention, diagnosis, and therapy. CA Cancer J Clin; Sep;69(5):402-429. PMID: 31283845.

Bononi A*, Yang H*, Giorgi C*, Patergnani S, Pellegrini L, Su M, Xie G, Signorato V, Pastorino S, Morris P, Sakamoto G, Kuchay S, Gaudino G, Pass HI, Napolitano A, Pinton P, Jia W, Carbone M. (2017). Germline BAP1mutations induce a Warburg effect. Cell Death Differ;June 30. doi: 10.1038/cdd,2017.95. Epub ahead of print. (* These authors contributed equally to this work).

Bononi A, Giorgi C, Patergnani S, Larson D, Verbruggen K, Tanji M, Pellegrini L, Signorato V, Olivetto F, Pastorino S, Nasu M, MNapolitano A, Gaudino G, Morris P, Sakamoto G, Ferris LK, Danese A, Raimondi A, Tacchetti C, Kuchay S, Pass HI, Affar EB, Yang H*, Pinton P*, Carbone M*. (2017). BAP1 regulates IP3R3-mediated Ca2+ flux to mitochondria suppressing cell transformation. Nature;546:549-553. doi: 10.1038/nature22798. (* co-corresponding authors).

Szymiczek A, Carbone M, Pastorino S, Napolitano A, Tanji M, Minaai M, Pagano I, Mason JM, Pass HI, Bray MR, Mak TW and Yang H. (2017). Inhibition of the spindle assembly checkpoint kinase Mps-1 as a novel therapeutic strategy in malignant mesothelioma. Oncogene;36(49): 6501-6507. PMID: 28759042.

Publication list via PubMed

Active Grants

H. Yang, Co-PI; M. Carbone, Contact PI
Mechanisms of BAP1 activity in human cancer development
12/13/2019 - 11/30/2024

H. Yang, Grzymski, Partner PIs; M. Carbone, Contact PI
Influence of germline mutations on susceptibility to environmental carcinogens
08/15/2019 - 06/30/2022

H. Yang, Co-PI; H. Pass, Contact PI
1 U01CA214195-01
"The EDRN Mesothelioma Biomarker Discovery Laboratory"
09/01/2016 - 03/31/2022 (CE)

H. Yang, Co-I; M. Carbone, PI
Germline BAP1 Mutations and Malignant Mesothelioma: Mechanisms and Early Detection
07/01/2015 - 06/30/2022 (NCE)