Tsonwin Hai, PhD
College of Medicine
Biological Chemistry & Pharmacology
Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics
Cancer, Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress, Prostatic Cancer, Cardiomegaly
Tsonwin Hai, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry and Pharmacology at Ohio State, and a member of the Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Program at the OSUCCC – James. Her research team focuses on maladaptive processes in the development of disease, with a focus on cancer.The Hai lab is studying a stress-inducible gene called ATF3 to learn how cells respond and adapt to stress signals. They found that high levels of ATF3 in the non-cancer cells in the microenvironment of breast cancer tumors from patients predicted worse outcomes. They have used mouse models to show that the negative outcome results from the ability of ATF3 in non-cancer stromal cells to change the immune response, tipping it toward a tissue-repair program that facilitates metastasis—the major cause of cancer death. These findings fit an emerging picture in cancer biology showing that chemotherapy can actually promote cancer progression, offsetting treatment effectiveness. Dr. Hai and her team have found that the expression of ATF3 in non-cancer stromal cells is induced by chemotherapeutic agents, and this induction is required for the agents to exert their devastating effect. They found that chemotherapy is a stressor that alters immune responses, at least in part, by inducing ATF3. The result is enabling more cancer cells to escape the primary tumor and making distant tissue more hospitable to metastatic cancer cells—findings that help explain the pro-cancer effect of chemotherapy by the “seed and soil” theory of cancer progression. By understanding chemotherapy’s role in metastasis, the Hai lab hopes to dampen its harmful effects and improve its efficacy. Dr. Hai has published many articles in well-respected journals, including Journal of Clinical Investigation, Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, Oncogene, Molecular and Cellular Biolog, and Journal of Biological Chemistry.