Honors & Awards

  • Trainee Abstract Award, AAI (2023)
  • Travel Award, SBUR (2023)
  • DoD Early Investigator Award, DoD (2021-2023)

Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Georgia (2018)
  • Master of Science, University Of New South Wales (2013)
  • Bachelor of Engineering, Wuhan University (2010)
  • B.Eng, Wuhan University (2010)
  • MSc, University of New South Wales (2012)
  • PhD, University of Georgia (2018)

Stanford Advisors

All Publications

  • AZGP1 deficiency promotes angiogenesis in prostate cancer. Journal of translational medicine Wen, R. M., Qiu, Z., Marti, G. E., Peterson, E. E., Marques, F. J., Bermudez, A., Wei, Y., Nolley, R., Lam, N., Polasko, A. L., Chiu, C. L., Zhang, D., Cho, S., Karageorgos, G. M., McDonough, E., Chadwick, C., Ginty, F., Jung, K. J., Machiraju, R., Mallick, P., Crowley, L., Pollack, J. R., Zhao, H., Pitteri, S. J., Brooks, J. D. 2024; 22 (1): 383


    Loss of AZGP1 expression is a biomarker associated with progression to castration resistance, development of metastasis, and poor disease-specific survival in prostate cancer. However, high expression of AZGP1 cells in prostate cancer has been reported to increase proliferation and invasion. The exact role of AZGP1 in prostate cancer progression remains elusive.AZGP1 knockout and overexpressing prostate cancer cells were generated using a lentiviral system. The effects of AZGP1 under- or over-expression in prostate cancer cells were evaluated by in vitro cell proliferation, migration, and invasion assays. Heterozygous AZGP1± mice were obtained from European Mouse Mutant Archive (EMMA), and prostate tissues from homozygous knockout male mice were collected at 2, 6 and 10 months for histological analysis. In vivo xenografts generated from AZGP1 under- or over-expressing prostate cancer cells were used to determine the role of AZGP1 in prostate cancer tumor growth, and subsequent proteomics analysis was conducted to elucidate the mechanisms of AZGP1 action in prostate cancer progression. AZGP1 expression and microvessel density were measured in human prostate cancer samples on a tissue microarray of 215 independent patient samples.Neither the knockout nor overexpression of AZGP1 exhibited significant effects on prostate cancer cell proliferation, clonal growth, migration, or invasion in vitro. The prostates of AZGP1-/- mice initially appeared to have grossly normal morphology; however, we observed fibrosis in the periglandular stroma and higher blood vessel density in the mouse prostate by 6 months. In PC3 and DU145 mouse xenografts, over-expression of AZGP1 did not affect tumor growth. Instead, these tumors displayed decreased microvessel density compared to xenografts derived from PC3 and DU145 control cells, suggesting that AZGP1 functions to inhibit angiogenesis in prostate cancer. Proteomics profiling further indicated that, compared to control xenografts, AZGP1 overexpressing PC3 xenografts are enriched with angiogenesis pathway proteins, including YWHAZ, EPHA2, SERPINE1, and PDCD6, MMP9, GPX1, HSPB1, COL18A1, RNH1, and ANXA1. In vitro functional studies show that AZGP1 inhibits human umbilical vein endothelial cell proliferation, migration, tubular formation and branching. Additionally, tumor microarray analysis shows that AZGP1 expression is negatively correlated with blood vessel density in human prostate cancer tissues.AZGP1 is a negative regulator of angiogenesis, such that loss of AZGP1 promotes angiogenesis in prostate cancer. AZGP1 likely exerts heterotypical effects on cells in the tumor microenvironment, such as stromal and endothelial cells. This study sheds light on the anti-angiogenic characteristics of AZGP1 in the prostate and provides a rationale to target AZGP1 to inhibit prostate cancer progression.

    View details for DOI 10.1186/s12967-024-05183-x

    View details for PubMedID 38659028

    View details for PubMedCentralID 321763

  • Measuring the multifaceted roles of mucin-domain glycoproteins in cancer. Advances in cancer research Riley, N. M., Wen, R. M., Bertozzi, C. R., Brooks, J. D., Pitteri, S. J. 2023; 157: 83-121


    Mucin-domain glycoproteins are highly O-glycosylated cell surface and secreted proteins that serve as both biochemical and biophysical modulators. Aberrant expression and glycosylation of mucins are known hallmarks in numerous malignancies, yet mucin-domain glycoproteins remain enigmatic in the broad landscape of cancer glycobiology. Here we review the multifaceted roles of mucins in cancer through the lens of the analytical and biochemical methods used to study them. We also describe a collection of emerging tools that are specifically equipped to characterize mucin-domain glycoproteins in complex biological backgrounds. These approaches are poised to further elucidate how mucin biology can be understood and subsequently targeted for the next generation of cancer therapeutics.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/bs.acr.2022.09.001

    View details for PubMedID 36725114

  • Distinguishing Renal Cell Carcinoma From Normal Kidney Tissue Using Mass Spectrometry Imaging Combined With Machine Learning. JCO precision oncology Shankar, V., Vijayalakshmi, K., Nolley, R., Sonn, G. A., Kao, C. S., Zhao, H., Wen, R., Eberlin, L. S., Tibshirani, R., Zare, R. N., Brooks, J. D. 2023; 7: e2200668


    Accurately distinguishing renal cell carcinoma (RCC) from normal kidney tissue is critical for identifying positive surgical margins (PSMs) during partial and radical nephrectomy, which remains the primary intervention for localized RCC. Techniques that detect PSM with higher accuracy and faster turnaround time than intraoperative frozen section (IFS) analysis can help decrease reoperation rates, relieve patient anxiety and costs, and potentially improve patient outcomes.Here, we extended our combined desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry imaging (DESI-MSI) and machine learning methodology to identify metabolite and lipid species from tissue surfaces that can distinguish normal tissues from clear cell RCC (ccRCC), papillary RCC (pRCC), and chromophobe RCC (chRCC) tissues.From 24 normal and 40 renal cancer (23 ccRCC, 13 pRCC, and 4 chRCC) tissues, we developed a multinomial lasso classifier that selects 281 total analytes from over 27,000 detected molecular species that distinguishes all histological subtypes of RCC from normal kidney tissues with 84.5% accuracy. On the basis of independent test data reflecting distinct patient populations, the classifier achieves 85.4% and 91.2% accuracy on a Stanford test set (20 normal and 28 RCC) and a Baylor-UT Austin test set (16 normal and 41 RCC), respectively. The majority of the model's selected features show consistent trends across data sets affirming its stable performance, where the suppression of arachidonic acid metabolism is identified as a shared molecular feature of ccRCC and pRCC.Together, these results indicate that signatures derived from DESI-MSI combined with machine learning may be used to rapidly determine surgical margin status with accuracies that meet or exceed those reported for IFS.

    View details for DOI 10.1200/PO.22.00668

    View details for PubMedID 37285559

  • Siglec-7/9 are novel immune checkpoints for prostate cancer Wen, R., Stark, J. C., Marti, G., Garcia-Marques, F., Zhao, H., Nolley, R., Bertozzi, C. R., Pitteri, S. J., Brooks, J. D. AMER ASSOC IMMUNOLOGISTS. 2023
  • NUSAP1 Binds ILF2 to Modulate R-Loop Accumulation and DNA Damage in Prostate Cancer. International journal of molecular sciences Chiu, C. L., Li, C. G., Verschueren, E., Wen, R. M., Zhang, D., Gordon, C. A., Zhao, H., Giaccia, A. J., Brooks, J. D. 2023; 24 (7)


    Increased expression of NUSAP1 has been identified as a robust prognostic biomarker in prostate cancer and other malignancies. We have previously shown that NUSAP1 is positively regulated by E2F1 and promotes cancer invasion and metastasis. To further understand the biological function of NUSAP1, we used affinity purification and mass spectrometry proteomic analysis to identify NUSAP1 interactors. We identified 85 unique proteins in the NUSAP1 interactome, including ILF2, DHX9, and other RNA-binding proteins. Using proteomic approaches, we uncovered a function for NUSAP1 in maintaining R-loops and in DNA damage response through its interaction with ILF2. Co-immunoprecipitation and colocalization using confocal microscopy verified the interactions of NUSAP1 with ILF2 and DHX9, and RNA/DNA hybrids. We showed that the microtubule and charged helical domains of NUSAP1 were necessary for the protein-protein interactions. Depletion of ILF2 alone further increased camptothecin-induced R-loop accumulation and DNA damage, and NUSAP1 depletion abolished this effect. In human prostate adenocarcinoma, NUSAP1 and ILF2 mRNA expression levels are positively correlated, elevated, and associated with poor clinical outcomes. Our study identifies a novel role for NUSAP1 in regulating R-loop formation and accumulation in response to DNA damage through its interactions with ILF2 and hence provides a potential therapeutic target.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/ijms24076258

    View details for PubMedID 37047232

  • Siglec-7/9-sialic acid interactions inhibit T cell immune response in prostate cancer Wen, R. M., Stark, J., Garcia-Marques, F., Nolley, H., Bertozzi, C. R., Pitteri, S. J., Brooks, J. D. AMER ASSOC CANCER RESEARCH. 2022
  • Sialylated glycoproteins as biomarkers and drivers of progression in prostate cancer. Carbohydrate research Wen, R., Zhao, H., Zhang, D., Chiu, C., Brooks, J. D. 2022; 519: 108598


    Sialic acids have been implicated in cancer initiation, progression, and immune evasion in diverse human malignancies. Sialylation of terminal glycans on cell surface and secreted glycoproteins is a long-recognized feature of cancer cells. Recently, immune checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy has tremendously improved the outcomes of patients with various cancers. However, available immunotherapy approaches have had limited efficacy in metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. Sialic acid modified glycoproteins in prostate cancers and their interaction with Siglec receptors on tumor infiltrating immune cells might underlie immunosuppressive signaling in prostate cancer. Here, we summarize the function of sialic acids and relevant glycosynthetic enzymes in cancer initiation and progression. We also discuss the possible uses of sialic acids as biomarkers in prostate cancer and the potential methods for targeting Siglec-sialic acid interactions for prostate cancer treatment.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.carres.2022.108598

    View details for PubMedID 35691122

  • The DNA Repair Nuclease MRE11A Functions as a Mitochondrial Protector and Prevents T Cell Pyroptosis and Tissue Inflammation. Cell metabolism Li, Y., Shen, Y., Jin, K., Wen, Z., Cao, W., Wu, B., Wen, R., Tian, L., Berry, G. J., Goronzy, J. J., Weyand, C. M. 2019


    In the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis (RA), CD4+ Tcells promote pro-inflammatory effector functions by shunting glucose away from glycolysis and ATP production. Underlying mechanisms remain unknown, and here we implicate the DNA repair nuclease MRE11A in the cells' bioenergetic failure. MRE11A deficiency in RA Tcells disrupted mitochondrial oxygen consumption and suppressed ATP generation. Also, MRE11A loss of function caused leakage of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) into the cytosol, triggering inflammasome assembly, caspase-1 activation, and pyroptotic cell death. Caspase-1 activation was frequent in lymph-node-residing Tcells in RA patients. Invivo, pharmacologic and genetic inhibition of MRE11A resulted in tissuedeposition of mtDNA, caspase-1 proteolysis, andaggressive tissue inflammation. Conversely, MRE11A overexpression restored mitochondrial fitness and shielded tissue from inflammatory attack. Thus, the nuclease MRE11A regulates a mitochondrial protection program, and MRE11A deficiency leads to DNA repair defects, energy production, and failure and loss of tissue homeostasis.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cmet.2019.06.016

    View details for PubMedID 31327667

  • Nanoparticle-Laden Macrophages for Tumor-Tropic Drug Delivery. Advanced materials (Deerfield Beach, Fla.) Zhang, W., Wang, M., Tang, W., Wen, R., Zhou, S., Lee, C., Wang, H., Jiang, W., Delahunty, I. M., Zhen, Z., Chen, H., Chapman, M., Wu, Z., Howerth, E. W., Cai, H., Li, Z., Xie, J. 2018; 30 (50): e1805557


    Macrophages hold great potential in cancer drug delivery because they can sense chemotactic cues and home to tumors with high efficiency. However, it remains a challenge to load large amounts of therapeutics into macrophages without compromising cell functions. This study reports a silica-based drug nanocapsule approach to solve this issue. The nanocapsule consists of a drug-silica complex filling and a solid silica sheath, and it is designed to minimally release drug molecules in the early hours of cell entry. While taken up by macrophages at high rates, the nanocapsules minimally affect cell migration in the first 6-12 h, buying time for macrophages to home to tumors and release drugs in situ. In particular, it is shown that doxorubicin (Dox) as a representative drug can be loaded into macrophages up to 16.6 pg per cell using this approach. When tested in a U87MG xenograft model, intravenously (i.v.) injected Dox-laden macrophages show comparable tumor accumulation as untreated macrophages. Therapy leads to efficient tumor growth suppression, while causing little systematic toxicity. This study suggests a new cell platform for selective drug delivery, which can be readily extended to the treatment of other types of diseases.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/adma.201805557

    View details for PubMedID 30368972

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6506271

  • Protein acylation mediates encapsulation of Src kinase into exosomes Wen, R., Li, Q., Kim, S., Ma, Y., Xie, J., Cai, H. AMER ASSOC CANCER RESEARCH. 2018
  • Core hydrophobicity tuning of a self-assembled particle results in efficient lipid reduction and favorable organ distribution. Nanoscale Banik, B., Wen, R., Marrache, S., Kumar, A., Kolishetti, N., Howerth, E. W., Dhar, S. 2017; 10 (1): 366-377


    Atherosclerosis, the deadliest disease in the United States, arises due to the build up of plaques in the arteries as a result of excessive cholesterol deposition and an impaired cholesterol removal process. High density lipoproteins (HDL), popularly known as "good cholesterol", are naturally occurring nano-sized particles that, along with apolipoproteins, are deployed to maintain cholesterol homeostasis in the body. Both cholesterol efflux, from the fat-laden macrophages in the arteries, and intracellular lipid transport, to deliver cholesterol to the mitochondria of liver cells for metabolism, hold key responsibilities to maintain healthy lipid levels inside the body. We designed a library of nine mitochondria targeted polymer-lipid hybrid nanoparticles (NPs), comprised of completely synthetic yet biodegradable components, that are capable of performing HDL-like functions. Using this library, we optimized a superior mitochondria targeted NP candidate, which can show favourable organ distribution, therapeutic potential, and non-toxic properties. Two targeted NP formulations with optimum NP size, zeta potential, and cholesterol binding and release properties were identified. Lipid reduction and anti-oxidative properties of these two NPs demonstrated cholesterol removal ability. In vivo therapeutic evaluation of the targeted-NP formulations in apolipoprotein E knockout (apoE-/-) mice indicated lipid reduction and anti-inflammatory properties compared to non-targeted NPs. This synthetic targeted NP with potential abilities to participate in both extra- and intracellular cholesterol transport might potentiate therapeutic interventions for heart diseases.

    View details for DOI 10.1039/c7nr06295h

    View details for PubMedID 29218349

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5744677

  • A Prodrug of Two Approved Drugs, Cisplatin and Chlorambucil, for Chemo War Against Cancer. Molecular cancer therapeutics Pathak, R. K., Wen, R., Kolishetti, N., Dhar, S. 2017; 16 (4): 625-636


    Cancer cells maintain normal mitochondrial glutathione as one of the defense mechanisms to inhibit mitochondrial membrane polarization and hence apoptosis. A combinational therapeutic modality Platin-Cbl, a prodrug of FDA-approved chemotherapeutic agents, cisplatin and chlorambucil (Cbl), was synthesized and characterized to explore the potential of this compound to initiate chemo war on cancer cells using the active drugs, cisplatin and Cbl, when delivered to the cellular power house mitochondrion using a targeted nanoparticle designed to get associated with this organelle. Platin-Cbl demonstrated significantly high cytotoxic activity across a number of tumor cell lines as well as in a cisplatin-resistant cancer cell line compared with cisplatin or its mixture with Cbl suggesting its unique potency in cisplatin-resistant tumors. A mitochondria-targeted nanoparticle formulation of Platin-Cbl allowed for its efficacious mitochondrial delivery. In vitro studies documented high potency of Platin-Cbl nanoparticle formulations. Cisplatin-resistant cells upon treatment with Platin-Cbl were still able to manage energy production to a certain extent via fatty acid pathway; the advantage of using T-Platin-Cbl-NP is that this nanoparticle treatment causes impairment of all metabolic pathways in cisplatin-resistant cells forcing the cells to undergo efficient apoptosis. This study highlights a combination of several beneficial effects for a cascade of events to overcome resistance associated with single drug therapy. Mol Cancer Ther; 16(4); 625-36. ©2017 AACR.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-16-0445

    View details for PubMedID 28148716

  • The Platin-X series: activation, targeting, and delivery. Dalton transactions (Cambridge, England : 2003) Basu, U., Banik, B., Wen, R., Pathak, R. K., Dhar, S. 2016; 45 (33): 12992-3004


    Anticancer platinum (Pt) complexes have long been considered to be one of the biggest success stories in the history of medicinal inorganic chemistry. Yet there remains the hunt for the "magic bullet" which can satisfy the requirements of an effective chemotherapeutic drug formulation. Pt(iv) complexes are kinetically more inert than the Pt(ii) congeners and offer the opportunity to append additional functional groups/ligands for prodrug activation, tumor targeting, or drug delivery. The ultimate aim of functionalization is to enhance the tumor selective action and attenuate systemic toxicity of the drugs. Moreover, an increase in cellular accumulation to surmount the resistance of the tumor against the drugs is also of paramount importance in drug development and discovery. In this review, we will address the attempts made in our lab to develop Pt(iv) prodrugs that can be activated and delivered using targeted nanotechnology-based delivery platforms.

    View details for DOI 10.1039/c6dt01738j

    View details for PubMedID 27493131

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4987247

  • Turn up the cellular power generator with vitamin E analogue formulation. Chemical science Wen, R., Dhar, S. 2016; 7 (8): 5559-5567


    The down regulation of the cellular power generator, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthase, in various cancer cells plays an obstructive role in mitochondria-mediated cell death. Cancer cells up-regulate ATPase inhibitory factor 1 (IF1) and down-regulate β-F1-ATPase of ATP synthase to enhance aerobic glycolysis for tumor growth via inhibiting total ATP synthase activity in the oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) pathway. Alpha-tocopheryl succinate (α-TOS), one of the most bioactive derivatives of vitamin E, can selectively induce apoptosis in numerous cancer cells. The cancer cell selective apoptosis inducing property of α-TOS is correlated to: mitochondrial destabilization, inhibition of anti-apoptotic B cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl2) and protein kinase C (PKC), caspase 3 activation, production of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS), and inhibition of succinate dehydrogenase activity of mitochondrial complex II, and interaction with complex I to some extent. There is no report which elucidates the effects of α-TOS on the cellular power generator, complex V or ATP synthase. Here, we report the activation of mitochondrial ATP synthase using a suitably designed chemical formulation of α-TOS for the first time. A mitochondria targeted α-TOS nanoparticle formulation demonstrated enhanced cytotoxicity and mitochondrial activities in cancer cells by inhibiting Bcl2 protein and activating ATP synthase. The modulation of ATP synthase in cancer cells by the engineered formulation of α-TOS can be promising for solid cancers with compromised ATP synthase.

    View details for DOI 10.1039/c6sc00481d

    View details for PubMedID 30034696

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6022097

  • Mitochondrion: A Promising Target for Nanoparticle-Based Vaccine Delivery Systems. Vaccines Wen, R., Umeano, A. C., Francis, L., Sharma, N., Tundup, S., Dhar, S. 2016; 4 (2)


    Vaccination is one of the most popular technologies in disease prevention and eradication. It is promising to improve immunization efficiency by using vectors and/or adjuvant delivery systems. Nanoparticle (NP)-based delivery systems have attracted increasing interest due to enhancement of antigen uptake via prevention of vaccine degradation in the biological environment and the intrinsic immune-stimulatory properties of the materials. Mitochondria play paramount roles in cell life and death and are promising targets for vaccine delivery systems to effectively induce immune responses. In this review, we focus on NPs-based delivery systems with surfaces that can be manipulated by using mitochondria targeting moieties for intervention in health and disease.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/vaccines4020018

    View details for PubMedID 27258316

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4931635

  • Nanotechnology inspired tools for mitochondrial dysfunction related diseases. Advanced drug delivery reviews Wen, R., Banik, B., Pathak, R. K., Kumar, A., Kolishetti, N., Dhar, S. 2016; 99 (Pt A): 52-69


    Mitochondrial dysfunctions are recognized as major factors for various diseases including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, neurological disorders, and a group of diseases so called "mitochondrial dysfunction related diseases". One of the major hurdles to gain therapeutic efficiency in diseases where the targets are located in the mitochondria is the accessibility of the targets in this compartmentalized organelle that imposes barriers toward internalization of ions and molecules. Over the time, different tools and techniques were developed to improve therapeutic index for mitochondria acting drugs. Nanotechnology has unfolded as one of the logical and encouraging tools for delivery of therapeutics in controlled and targeted manner simultaneously reducing side effects from drug overdose. Tailor-made nanomedicine based therapeutics can be an excellent tool in the toolbox for diseases associated with mitochondrial dysfunctions. In this review, we present an extensive coverage of possible therapeutic targets in different compartments of mitochondria for cancer, cardiovascular, and mitochondrial dysfunction related diseases.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.addr.2015.12.024

    View details for PubMedID 26776231

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4798867

  • Accessing Mitochondrial Targets Using NanoCargos INTRACELLULAR DELIVERY III: MARKET ENTRY BARRIERS OF NANOMEDICINES Wen, R., Umeano, A. C., Dhar, S., Prokop, A., Weissig 2016; 8: 229-254
  • Synthesis of Li<sub>4</sub>Ti<sub>5</sub>O<sub>12</sub> nanostructural anode materials with high charge-discharge capability CHINESE SCIENCE BULLETIN Wen, R., Yue, J., Ma, Z., Chen, W., Jiang, X., Yu, A. 2014; 59 (18): 2162-2174