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CIHR Skin Research Training Centre
Molecular Medicine Lab

Molecular Medicine Lab

The focus of the Molecular Medicine Lab is on biomarker discovery and application in the diagnosis, treatment and therapeutic development for cancers and skin diseases.
Genomic tools such as transcriptional profiling and whole genome SNP scanning are used to identify disease-specific gene markers for common skin diseases such as skin lymphoma, melanoma, vitiligo, rosacea and hyperhidrosis. These markers are then evaluated for their significance as diagnostic markers or therapeutic targets.

Current projects:

1. Development of diagnostic and therapeutic antibodies for cancer and skin diseases:
Multiple biomarkers discovered from this laboratory (patent pending) show superior sensitivity and specificity for the diagnosis and prognostication of melanoma and skin lymphoma compared with the currently available tools. Therefore, one of the main research areas of the lab is to develop robust monoclonal antibodies so that these markers can be translated into clinical use. In addition, several antibodies against cancer antigens also possess cancer growth inhibition and anti-inflammation properties. These antibodies will serve as early leads for the development of therapeutic antibodies against metastatic cancers and human inflammatory diseases.

2. Cutaneous T cell lymphoma and Sezary syndrome:
Sezary syndrome is an aggressive form of cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL) that has high mortality. This lab has identified unique and novel biomarkers for the malignant cells. At present, these markers are being developed into diagnostic tools (patent pending), and unique research tools for large scale preparation of CTCL cells so that previously impractical integrated genomic analysis on these cells can now take place.

3. Identification and functional characterization of genetic skin diseases using next generation sequencing technologies:
Many human diseases, including most of skin diseases have origins in the genetic characteristics of the affected individuals. The maturation of the large scale and high-fidelity genomic sequencing and whole genome mapping techniques has made it possible to systematically identify these genetic traits. The Molecular Medicine Lab, and the associated Chieng Genomics Centre, is studying several such genetic skin diseases, including vitiligo and hyperhidrosis, with the aim of understanding their genetic basis. 


Dr. Youwen Zhou, Director, Molecular Medicine Lab 


Vancouver General Hospital Research Pavilion, The Skin Care Centre, BC Cancer Research Centre


Mingwan Su (Research Scientist)


Guohong Zhang
Lixin Xia


Yuanshen (Rachel) Huang
Richard Yu


  1. Zhang Y, Wang Y, Yu R, Huang R, Su M, Dutz J, Martinka M, Xiao C, Zhang X, Zheng Z, and Zhou Y. Molecular markers of early stage mycosis fungoides. J Invest Dermatol. 2012 (Publication on line March 2012)
  2. Zhu K, Lv YM, Yin X, Wang Z, He S, Cheng H, Hu D, Zhang Z, Li Y, Zuo X, Zhou Y, Yang S, Zhang XJ and Zhang F. Psoriasis Stepwise Regression Analysis of MHC Loci Identifies Shared Genetic Variants with Vitiligo. PLOS One (Published on line, July 2011)
  3. Liu Y, Lv Y, Yang X, Ren Y, Zhang X, Guo B, Li M, Gao M, Zuo X, Zhou F, Chen G, Yin X, Sun L, Zheng X, Zhang S, Liu J, Zhou Y, Jiang T, Zhang Q, Zhang P, Li Y, Wang J, Wang J, Yang H, Yang S, Li R, and Zhang, X. Exome sequencing identifies NCSTN mutations in inversa acne (hidradenitis suppurativa) J Invest Dermatol. 2011 Jul;131(7):1570-2
  4. Wang, Y, Su Mw, Zhou, LL, Tu, P Zhang, XJ, Jiang, X and Zhou, Y. Deficiency of SATB1 expression in Sézary cells causes apoptosis resistance by regulating FasL/CD95L transcription. Blood 2011 Apr 7;117(14):3826-35
  5. Quan, C, Ren, Y, Xiang, L, Sun, L, et al, Zhou, Y, and Zhang X-J. Genome-wide association study for vitiligo identifies susceptibility loci at 6q27 and the MHC. Nature Genetics, 2010. 42: 614-8
  6. Wang, Y, Jiang, H, Dai, et al and Zhou, Y. Alpha 1 antichymotrypsin is aberrantly expressed during melanoma progression and predicts poor survival for patients with metastatic melanoma. Pigment Cell Mel Res 2010; 23:575-8
  7. Xu, S., Zhou, Y et al and Zhang, X-J. Platelet-derived growth factor receptor alpha gene mutations in vitiligo vulgaris. Acta Dermatol Venereol. 2010. 90: 131-5.
  8. Wei S, Zhang T, Zhou Y, Zhang B, Zhu H, Li J, Huang Z, Deng L and Zhang X-J Fine Mapping of the Disseminated Superficial Porokeratosis Locus to a 2.7Mb Region on 18p11.3 Clin Exp Dermatol. 2010. 35: 664-7
  9. Bissonnette R, Chen G, Bolduc C, Maari C, Li B, Lyle M, Tang L, Wanggui Y, Webster J and Zhou Y. Efficacy and safety of topical WBI1001 in the treatment of atopic dermatitis: results from a phase IIa randomized placebo controlled clinical trial. Arch Dermatol, 2010; 146:446-9
  10. Kennah E, Ringrose A, Zhou LL, Esmailzadeh S, Qian H, Su M-w, Zhou Y, and Jiang X Identification of tyrosine kinase, HCK, and tumor suppressor, BIN1, as potential mediators of AHI-1 oncogene in primary and transformed CTCL cells, Blood, 2009; 113:4646-55.
  11. Ren, Y, Yang S, Xu, S , Gao M, Huang W, Gao T,Fang Q, Quan C, Zhang C, Sun L, Liang Y, Han J, Wang Z, Zhang F, Zhou Y, Liu J, Zhang X. Genetic Variation of Promoter Sequence Modulates XBP1 Expression and Genetic Risk for Vitiligo. PLoS Genetics. 2009; 5: e1000523
  12. Huang C, Tian J, Tao J, Liu Y, Li Y, Yang L, Zhang J, Li Y, Chen S, Lin N, Shen G, Tu Y, and Zhou Y Endothelin signaling axis activates osteopontin expression through PI3 kinase pathway in A375 melanoma cells. J Dermatol Sci. 2008;52:130-134.
  13. Tang, L., Huang C, Su, MW, Zhang, Y, Ip, W, Martinka, M, and Zhou, Y. Endothelin 3 autocrine pathway in metastatic melanoma. J. Cutaneous Med. Surg. 2008;12(2):64-70
  14. Zhang J, Adam D, Stebbing E, Gerbrandt J, Lui H, Shapiro J, and Zhou Y. Efficacy of a day-care program in the treatment of psoriasis. J. Cutaneous Med. Surg. 2008;12:211-216
  15. Tao J, Huang C, Yu N, Wu Y., Liu Y, Li Y, Tian J, Yang L, Zhang J, Li J, Zhou, Y and Tu Y. Olmsted syndrome: a case report and review of literature. Int. J. Dermatol. 2008;47:432-437 

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