Oncology Division
Alphabetical list (active faculty):   
Shunqiang Li

Shunqiang Li, PhD

Assistant Professor

Department of Medicine

Oncology Division

Molecular Oncology

Research Interests

  • Patient-derived tumor xenograft (PDX) models
  • Cancer genomics and proteomics
  • Preclinical study of anticancer drugs
  • Personalized cancer therapy


  • 314-747-9320 (lab)
  • 314-747-9320 (fax)
  • Division of Oncology
    Campus Box 8076
    Washington University
    660 South Euclid Avenue
    St. Louis, MO 63110
  • Couch Biomedical Research Building, Room 3307 (office)


Dr. Shunqiang Li's laboratory interests lie in the use of preclinical, in vivo models for translational cancer research. He has established patient-derived tumor xenografts from breast cancers to provide a unique system that would allow for preclinical testing of new anti-cancer drugs in a well-characterized model that best recapitulates the human disease. His projects include the following:

Establishment and characterization of patient-derived tumor xenografts

Cancer is a complex disease comprised of a spectrum of cancer subtypes with distinct clinical phenotypes, genetic anomalies, and therapeutic responsiveness. While cell-line derived cancer xenografts are frequently used for preclinical testing, the ability of these models to predict drug efficacy is limited due to the alterations caused by long-term in vitro culture, the lack of the source patient's clinical information, and their poor representation of the complexity present in cancer. In collaboration with Dr. Matthew Ellis and others, Dr. Li launched the HAMLET (Human and Mouse Linked Evaluation of Tumors) project in 2006 to establish patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models using breast cancer tissue and to compare the similarities between the original tumors and their xenografts. The goals of this project are to (1) use WHIM (Washington University Human in Mouse) tumor models to bridge the knowledge gap between breast cancer genome structure and function; (2) test the anti-cancer efficacy of new drugs; and (3) apply WHIM tumor models to the study of personalized cancer therapy.

Dr. Li has successfully established over fifty WHIM tumor models by engrafting patient breast cancer tissues into NOD/SCID mice. The WHIM tumor models have been characterized by (1) global gene expression; (2) array CGH; and (3) in some cases, whole genome sequencing and reverse phase protein array (RPPA). As featured in the Nature (2010) and Cell Reports (2013) articles, the WHIM models exhibit remarkable genetic and phenotypic similarities with the human tumor from which they were derived. They are "live" replicas of the human tumors. Dr. Li is the Director of the HAMLET Core (http://digitalcommons.wustl.edu/hamlet/). He oversees the daily operations of the Core and assists investigators in evaluating the potential utility of WHIM models to their research.

Translational research and personalized cancer therapy based on patient-derived tumor xenografts

The WHIM model is a rich resource that provides a unique in vivo model to conduct cancer translational research. The models have been successfully incorporated in multiple investigators' funded projects, including:

  • Preclinical Study of PD-0332991 on Xenograft Models Derived from Patients with ER Positive, HER2 Negative Advanced Breast Cancer (Principal investigator: Shunqiang Li, Pfizer Inc. Global Investigator-Initiated Research, Pfizer Reference # WI173175).
  • Preclinical Study of MLN0128 and MLN1117 on Xenografts Derived from Patients with Late Stage ER+ Breast Cancer (Principal investigator: Shunqiang Li, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc.)
  • Cancer Proteome Center at Washington University, University of North Carolina & Boise State (Principal investigator: Matthew Ellis, et al.; NIH, 5U24CA160035-02).
  • Personalized Breast Cancer Vaccines Based on Genome Sequencing (Principal investigator: William Gillanders, et al.; Susan G Komen for the Cure, KG111025).
  • Cell Death Activation to Prevent Late Relapse in Breast Cancer (Principal investigator: Matthew Ellis, et al.; Susan G Komen for the Cure, PG12220321).
  • Chk1- and PI3K- Pathways as Therapeutic Targets in Triple Negative Breast Cancers (Principal investigator: Helen Piwnica-Worms; Susan G Komen for the Cure, KG081551).

In collaboration with Drs. William Gillanders and Ted Hansen, WHIM tumor cells were used for testing the anticancer efficacy of personalized breast cancer vaccines in vitro before the vaccines were injected into the patients from whom the WHIM tumor lines were derived. WHIM tumor-related materials have been disseminated to over thirty investigators for use in translational research across the country. Dr. Li has recently extended his studies in patient-derived xenografts derived from other cancer types.