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Young Investigator: Lindy Zhang

By March 3, 2022December 18th, 2023NF1, Science & Research

The Young Investigator Award, initiated in 1985, is the Children's Tumor Foundation's longest-running award program and provides two-year salary support to early-career NF researchers to help them get established as independent NF investigators. Since its inception, several YIAs have made groundbreaking research findings and notable publications through this program, and many have advanced to become leaders in the NF research and clinical communities.

New for the class of 2021, additional funding and duration have been available, extending the support to span three years. Now, we’re introducing some of these researchers: Lindy Zhang (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) tells us about her research and being part of the community.


What are you hoping to learn from this project? 

My project focuses on the interaction between the immune system and NF1-associated tumors. Our immune system is meant to eliminate cells that are harmful to our body, such as tumor cells. However, studies have shown that tumors have created a microenvironment that alters the function of immune cells to be more tolerant and allows tumors to grow. Different cancers do this differently and little is known about how NF1-associated tumors, like MPNST, interact with the surround immune cells. If we can understand this interaction, then the hope is to be able to change it in a way that we might be able to activate these immune cells to be less tolerant and use them as defenses against tumor cells. This can be a potential new therapy for patients with MPNST, who currently have very limited options to cure.  

What are your long-term research goals? 

I hope to be a physician-scientist focusing research on immunotherapy in sarcomas, with an emphasis on NF1-associated tumors. My dream is to conduct translational research and produce preclinical data that will help inform the future directions of clinical trials.  

What do you like to do when you're not in the lab? 

I practice yoga and pilates in the early mornings and enjoy long afternoons, when I can, in café shops with a cup of cappuccino, a delicious pastry, and a coming-of-age novel.  

What does it mean to you to receive this funding from CTF? 

I have taken care of many patients with NF1-associated MPNST and have been on some tough journeys with my patients who are battling MPNST. I am steadfast in my commitment to making a meaningful impact in the treatment of this dire disease. Receiving the CTF Young Investigator Award (YIA) has reaffirmed my path to becoming a physician-scientist focusing on targeted therapies and immunotherapies in sarcomas. It has allowed me to dedicate time to building my professional network and strengthen my career in NF1 research.  

For more information about funding opportunities from the Children’s Tumor Foundation, click here