Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Associate Member, American Association for Cancer Research (2017 - Present)

Professional Education

  • BS, University of Science and Technology, Beijing, Biotechnology (2014)
  • MS, University of California, San Diego, Nanoengineering (2015)
  • MS, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Applied Statistics (former Biometry) (2021)
  • PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Biomedical Sciences (2021)

Stanford Advisors

All Publications

  • Role of PLK1/NUMB/NOTCH in epithelial-mesenchymal transition in human melanoma NPJ PRECISION ONCOLOGY Chhabra, G., Singh, C. K., Ndiaye, M. A., Su, S., Shirley, C. A., Ahmad, N. 2024; 8 (1): 6


    Polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1), a serine/threonine kinase, is overexpressed in melanoma and its expression has been associated with poor disease prognosis. PLK1 has been shown to interact with NUMB, a NOTCH antagonist. However, the exact role of PLK1, NUMB, and NOTCH signaling in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in melanoma progression is unclear. In this study, Affymetrix microarray analysis was performed to determine differentially expressed genes following shRNA-mediated knockdown of PLK1 in human melanoma cells that showed significant modulations in EMT and metastasis-related genes. Using multiple PLK1-modulated melanoma cell lines, we found that PLK1 is involved in the regulation of cell migration, invasion, and EMT via its kinase activity and NOTCH activation. In vitro kinase assay and mass spectrometry analysis demonstrated a previously unknown PLK1 phosphorylation site (Ser413) on NUMB. Overexpression of non-phosphorylatable (S413A) and phosphomimetic (S413D) mutants of NUMB in melanoma cells implicated the involvement of NUMB-S413 phosphorylation in cell migration and invasion, which was independent of NOTCH activation. To determine the clinical relevance of these findings, immunohistochemistry was performed using melanoma tissue microarray, which indicated a strong positive correlation between PLK1 and N-cadherin, a protein required for successful EMT. These findings were supported by TCGA analysis, where expression of high PLK1 with low NUMB or high NOTCH or N-cadherin showed a significant decrease in survival of melanoma patients. Overall, these results suggest a potential role of PLK1 in EMT, migration, and invasion of melanoma cells. Our findings support the therapeutic targeting of PLK1, NUMB, and NOTCH for melanoma management.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41698-023-00493-7

    View details for Web of Science ID 001137214100001

    View details for PubMedID 38184733

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10771520

  • Distinct Hodgkin lymphoma subtypes defined by noninvasive genomic profiling. Nature Alig, S. K., Esfahani, M. S., Garofalo, A., Li, M. Y., Rossi, C., Flerlage, T., Flerlage, J. E., Adams, R., Binkley, M. S., Shukla, N., Jin, M. C., Olsen, M., Telenius, A., Mutter, J. A., Schroers-Martin, J. G., Sworder, B. J., Rai, S., King, D. A., Schultz, A., Bögeholz, J., Su, S., Kathuria, K. R., Liu, C. L., Kang, X., Strohband, M. J., Langfitt, D., Pobre-Piza, K. F., Surman, S., Tian, F., Spina, V., Tousseyn, T., Buedts, L., Hoppe, R., Natkunam, Y., Fornecker, L. M., Castellino, S. M., Advani, R., Rossi, D., Lynch, R., Ghesquières, H., Casasnovas, O., Kurtz, D. M., Marks, L. J., Link, M. P., André, M., Vandenberghe, P., Steidl, C., Diehn, M., Alizadeh, A. A. 2023


    The scarcity of malignant Hodgkin and Reed-Sternberg (HRS) cells hamper tissue-based comprehensive genomic profiling of classic Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL). Liquid biopsies, in contrast, show promise for molecular profiling of cHL due to relatively high circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) levels1-4. Here, we show that the plasma representation of mutations exceeds the bulk tumor representation in most cases, making cHL particularly amenable to noninvasive profiling. Leveraging single-cell transcriptional profiles of cHL tumors, we demonstrate HRS ctDNA shedding to be shaped by DNASE1L3, whose increased tumor microenvironment-derived expression drives high ctDNA concentrations. Using this insight, we comprehensively profile 366 patients, revealing two distinct cHL genomic subtypes with characteristic clinical and prognostic correlates, as well as distinct transcriptional and immunological profiles. Furthermore, we identify a novel class of truncating IL4R-mutations that are dependent on IL13 signaling and therapeutically targetable with IL4R blocking antibodies. Finally, using PhasED-Seq5 we demonstrate the clinical value of pre- and on-treatment ctDNA levels for longitudinally refining cHL risk prediction, and for detection of radiographically occult minimal residual disease. Collectively, these results support the utility of noninvasive strategies for genotyping and dynamic monitoring of cHL as well as capturing molecularly distinct subtypes with diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic potential.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-023-06903-x

    View details for PubMedID 38081297

  • Genomic, Transcriptional, and Immunological Validation of Distinct Molecular Subtypes of Classic Hodgkin Lymphoma through Tissue-Based and Noninvasive Methods Alig, S. K., Esfahani, M., Garofalo, A., Li, M., Rossi, C., Flerlage, T., Flerlage, J. E., Adams, R., Binkley, M. S., Shukla, N., Jin, M., Olsen, M., Telenius, A., Mutter, J. A., Schroers-Martin, J., Sworder, B. J., Rai, S., King, D., Schultz, A., Bogeholz, J., Su, S., Kathuria, K. R., Liu, C., Kang, X., Langfitt, D. M., Pobre-Piza, K., Tian, F., Strohband, M. J., Spina, V., Tousseyn, T., Buedts, L., Fornecker, L., Castellino, S. M., Advani, R. H., Rossi, D., Lynch, R. C., Ghesquieres, H., Casasnovas, O., Kurtz, D. M., Marks, L. J., Link, M. P., Andre, M., Vandenberghe, P., Steidl, C., Diehn, M., Alizadeh, A. A. AMER SOC HEMATOLOGY. 2023
  • Investigating the Cell States and Prognostic Impact of Tumor Microenvironment Ecosystems in Classic Hodgkin Lymphoma Su, S., Subramanian, A., Flerlage, T., Flerlage, J. E., Alig, S. K., Moding, E. J., Hoppe, R. T., Advani, R. H., Natkunam, Y., Alizadeh, A. A., Binkley, M. S. AMER SOC HEMATOLOGY. 2023
  • Potential Tumor Suppressor Role of Polo-like Kinase 5 in Cancer CANCERS Su, S., Ndiaye, M., Guzman-Perez, G., Baus, R., Huang, W., Patankar, M., Ahmad, N. 2023; 15 (22)


    The polo-like kinase (PLK) family of serine/threonine kinases contains five members (PLK1-5). Most PLKs are involved in cell cycle regulation and DNA damage response. However, PLK5 is different as it lacks a functional kinase domain and is not involved in cell cycle control. PLK5 remains the least-studied family member, and its role in oncogenesis remains enigmatic. Here, we identified tissues with high PLK5 expression by leveraging the Protein Atlas and GTEx databases with relevant literature and selected ovarian, lung, testis, endometrium, cervix, and fallopian tube tissues as candidates for further investigation. Subsequently, we performed immunohistochemical staining for PLK5 on multiple tissue microarrays followed by Vectra scanning and quantitative inForm analysis. This revealed consistently downregulated PLK5 expression in these cancers compared to normal tissues. To validate and extend our findings, we performed pan-cancer analysis of PLK5 expression using public RNAseq databases (TCGA and GTEx). We found PLK5 is downregulated in 18 cancer types, including our selected candidates. Interestingly, we also observed PLK5 expression remains consistently low in later stages of cancer, suggesting PLK5 may have a greater role in tumor initiation than cancer progression. Overall, our study demonstrates PLK5 downregulation in multiple cancers, highlighting its role as a tumor suppressor.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/cancers15225457

    View details for Web of Science ID 001107818600001

    View details for PubMedID 38001717

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10669931

  • Investigating the tissue specificity and prognostic impact of cis-regulatory cancer risk variants. Human genetics Subramanian, A., Su, S., Moding, E. J., Binkley, M. S. 2023


    The tissue-specific incidence of cancers and their genetic basis are poorly understood. Although prior studies have shown global correlation across tissues for cancer risk single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified through genome-wide association studies (GWAS), any shared functional regulation of gene expression on a per SNP basis has not been well characterized. We set to quantify cis-mediated gene regulation and tissue sharing for SNPs associated with eight common cancers. We identify significant tissue sharing for individual SNPs and global enrichment for breast, colorectal, and Hodgkin lymphoma cancer risk SNPs in multiple tissues. In addition, we observe increasing tissue sharing for cancer risk SNPs overlapping with super-enhancers for breast cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma providing further evidence of tissue specificity. Finally, for genes under cis-regulation by breast cancer SNPs, we identify a phenotype characterized by low expression of tumor suppressors and negative regulators of the WNT pathway associated with worse freedom from progression and overall survival in patients who eventually develop breast cancer. Our results introduce a paradigm for functionally annotating individual cancer risk SNPs and will inform the design of future translational studies aimed to personalize assessment of inherited cancer risk across tissues.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s00439-023-02586-6

    View details for PubMedID 37474751

    View details for PubMedCentralID 7388212

  • PLK1 inhibition-based combination therapies for cancer management TRANSLATIONAL ONCOLOGY Su, S., Chhabra, G., Singh, C. K., Ndiaye, M. A., Ahmad, N. 2022; 16: 101332


    Polo-like kinase I (PLK1), a cell cycle regulating kinase, has been shown to have oncogenic function in several cancers. Although PLK1 inhibitors, such as BI2536, BI6727 (volasertib) and NMS-1286937 (onvansertib) are generally well-tolerated with a favorable pharmacokinetic profile, clinical successes are limited due to partial responses in cancer patients, especially those in advanced stages. Recently, combination therapies targeting multiple pathways are being tested for cancer management. In this review, we first discuss structure and function of PLK1, role of PLK1 in cancers, PLK1 specific inhibitors, and advantages of using combination therapy versus monotherapy followed by a critical account on PLK1-based combination therapies in cancer treatments, especially highlighting recent advancements and challenges. PLK1 inhibitors in combination with chemotherapy drugs and targeted small molecules have shown superior effects against cancer both in vitro and in vivo. PLK1-based combination therapies have shown increased apoptosis, disrupted cell cycle, and potential to overcome resistance in cancer cells/tissues over monotherapies. Further, with successes in preclinical experiments, researchers are validating such approaches in clinical trials. Although PLK1-based combination therapies have achieved initial success in clinical studies, there are examples where they have failed to improve patient survival. Therefore, further research is needed to identify and validate novel biologically informed co-targets for PLK1-based combinatorial therapies. Employing a network-based analysis, we identified potential PLK1 co-targets that could be examined further. In addition, understanding the mechanisms of synergism between PLK1 inhibitors and other agents may lead to a better approach on which agents to pair with PLK1 inhibition for optimum cancer treatment.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.tranon.2021.101332

    View details for Web of Science ID 000820881200012

    View details for PubMedID 34973570

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8728518

  • PLK1 and NOTCH Positively Correlate in Melanoma and Their Combined Inhibition Results in Synergistic Modulations of Key Melanoma Pathways MOLECULAR CANCER THERAPEUTICS Su, S., Chhabra, G., Ndiaye, M. A., Singh, C. K., Ye, T., Huang, W., Dewey, C. N., Setaluri, V., Ahmad, N. 2021; 20 (1): 161-172


    Melanoma is one of the most serious forms of skin cancer, and its increasing incidence coupled with nonlasting therapeutic options for metastatic disease highlights the need for additional novel approaches for its management. In this study, we determined the potential interactions between polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1, a serine/threonine kinase involved in mitotic regulation) and NOTCH1 (a type I transmembrane protein deciding cell fate during development) in melanoma. Employing an in-house human melanoma tissue microarray (TMA) containing multiple cases of melanomas and benign nevi, coupled with high-throughput, multispectral quantitative fluorescence imaging analysis, we found a positive correlation between PLK1 and NOTCH1 in melanoma. Furthermore, The Cancer Genome Atlas database analysis of patients with melanoma showed an association of higher mRNA levels of PLK1 and NOTCH1 with poor overall, as well as disease-free, survival. Next, utilizing small-molecule inhibitors of PLK1 and NOTCH (BI 6727 and MK-0752, respectively), we found a synergistic antiproliferative response of combined treatment in multiple human melanoma cells. To determine the molecular targets of the overall and synergistic responses of combined PLK1 and NOTCH inhibition, we conducted RNA-sequencing analysis employing a unique regression model with interaction terms. We identified the modulations of several key genes relevant to melanoma progression/metastasis, including MAPK, PI3K, and RAS, as well as some new genes such as Apobec3G, BTK, and FCER1G, which have not been well studied in melanoma. In conclusion, our study demonstrated a synergistic antiproliferative response of concomitant targeting of PLK1 and NOTCH in melanoma, unraveling a potential novel therapeutic approach for detailed preclinical/clinical evaluation.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-20-0654

    View details for Web of Science ID 000607000100015

    View details for PubMedID 33177155

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7790869

  • Mitochondrial Sirtuins in Skin and Skin Cancers PHOTOCHEMISTRY AND PHOTOBIOLOGY Su, S., Ndiaye, M., Singh, C. K., Ahmad, N. 2020; 96 (5): 973-980


    Mammalian sirtuins (SIRTs 1-7) are a family of NAD+-dependent deacetylases with distinct subcellular localization and biological functions that regulate various important cellular processes. Among these, SIRTs -3, -4 and -5 are located in the mitochondria and have been implicated in caloric restriction, oxidative stress, aging and various human diseases. Emerging evidence has found dysregulation of mitochondrial sirtuins in multiple dermatological conditions, including responses to ultraviolet radiation (UVR), suggesting their importance in maintaining skin health. In this review, we discuss the roles and implications of mitochondrial sirtuins in cutaneous cellular processes, and their emerging potential as a target for the management of skin diseases, including skin cancer. Among mitochondrial sirtuins, SIRT3 is the most studied and linked to multiple skin conditions and diseases (keratinocyte differentiation, wound healing, chronological aging, UVR and ozone response, systemic sclerosis, melanoma, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)). SIRT4 has been connected to keratinocyte differentiation, chronological aging, UVR response, alopecia, BCC and SCC. Further, SIRT5 has been associated with keratinocyte differentiation, melanoma, BCC and SCC. Overall, while there is compelling evidence for the involvement of mitochondrial sirtuins in skin, additional detailed studies are needed to understand their exact roles in skin and skin cancers.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/php.13254

    View details for Web of Science ID 000528924600001

    View details for PubMedID 32124989

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7483225

  • Selective synthesis of indazoles and indoles <i>via</i> triazene-alkyne cyclization switched by different metals ORGANIC & BIOMOLECULAR CHEMISTRY Fang, Y., Wang, C., Su, S., Yu, H., Huang, Y. 2014; 12 (7): 1061-1071


    We described two orthogonal heterocycle syntheses, where an arene bearing both an alkyne and a triazene functionality underwent two distinct cyclization pathways mediated by different transition metals. Starting from the same substrates, a synthesis of 2H-indazole was accomplished by a Cu(II) salt promoted oxidative cyclization, while 2-substituted indoles could be accessed via a Ag(I) salt mediated N-N bond cleavage. This method represents the first synthesis of indoles from alkynyl triazenes. Computational analysis was performed for both reaction pathways, supporting a Lewis acid role for Cu and a π-acid catalysis for Ag.

    View details for DOI 10.1039/c3ob42088d

    View details for Web of Science ID 000330790100007

    View details for PubMedID 24357235

  • Recent Progress in Copper Catalyzed C-H Functionalizations CHINESE JOURNAL OF ORGANIC CHEMISTRY Yu, H., Su, S., Zhang, C., Dang, Z. 2013; 33 (8): 1628-1646