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About Sickkids
About SickKids

Xi Huang, PhD

Research Institute
Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Principal Investigator
The Arthur and Sonia Labatt Brain Tumour Research Centre

University of Toronto
Assistant Professor
Department of Molecular Genetics

Chair Positions
Canada Research Chair
Cancer Biophysics

Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 309526
Email: xi.huang@sickkids.ca

For more information, visit:

Huang Lab

Brief Biography

  • Scientist, Developmental & Stem cell Biology, SickKids (2015-present)
  • Damon Runyon Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco/Howard Hughes Medical Institute, USA (2010-2015, Advisor: Dr. Lily Jan)
  • PhD, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Vanderbilt University, USA (2004-2010, Advisor: Dr. Chin Chiang)
  • B.Sc., Biology, Xiamen University, China (2000-2004)

Research Interests

Ion channels are pore-forming, transmembrane proteins that regulate biological processes by controlling ion flow across cell membranes. At a cross-disciplinary field, the roles of ion channels in cancer remain underexplored. Our lab investigates the function of ion channels in brain development and cancer, using multi-disciplinary approaches including those in Drosophila genetics, mouse genetics, xenograft modeling, cell biology, and electrophysiology. We attempt to define the mechanisms that ion channels utilize to regulate neural development and tumorigenesis. We are currently investigating several questions in the lab:

  • At the systematic level, what is the mutational landscape of ion channels in various cancer types, and how do recurrent ion channel mutations affect tumorigenesis?
  • At the cellular level, how do ion channels regulate tumor initiation, progression and metastasis in genetically tractable animal models?
  • At the molecular level, how do different ion channels form a functional network to regulate cancer cell behaviors?
  • Can we use ion channel-targeting drugs for cancer treatment?

External Funding

  • Cancer Research Society (CRS)
  • Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute (CCSRI)
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
  • American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA)
  • Concern Foundation
  • Rare Diseases: Models and Mechanisms (RDMM) Network
  • b.r.a.i.n.child
  • Meagan's Walk
  • U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
  • Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR)
  • Sontag Foundation


2018 - Sontag Foundation Distinguished Scientist Award

2016 - Conquer Cancer Now Award, Concern Foundation

2015 - Careers in Cancer Research Development Program New PI Award, CIHR-ICR/CCSRI

2015 - Catalyst Scholar in Stem Cell Research

2011 - Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship (Kandis Ann Ulrich-Carleton Fellow)

2011 - Graduate Education in Medical Sciences-Clinical and Translational Science Institute Postdoctoral Award, UCSF/HHMI

2011 - Outstanding Graduate Student Award, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Vanderbilt University

2010 - Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Student Abroad


Additional details including editorial highlights and media coverage can be found in the publications section of Dr. Huang's lab website.

Wang YA, Li XL, Mo YZ, Fan CM, Tang L, Xiong F, Guo C, Xiang B, Zhou M, Ma J, Huang X, Wu X, Li Y, Li GY, Zeng ZY, Xiong W (2018) Effects of tumor metabolic microenvironment on regulatory T cells. Mol Cancer. 17(1):168. PMID:30477520

Chen X, Wanggou S, Bodalia A, Zhu M, Dong W, Fan JJ, Yin WC, Min HK, Hu M, Draghici D, Dou W, Li F, Coutinho FJ, Whetstone H, Kushida MM, Dirks PB, Song Y, Hui CC, Sun Y, Wang LY, Li X, Huang X (2018) A feedforward mechanism for mechanosensitive ion channel PIEZO1 and tissue mechanics to promote glioma aggression. Neuron, doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2018.09.046

Frattini V, Pagnotta SM, Tala, Fan JJ, Russo MV, Lee SB, Garofano L, Zhang J, Shi P, Lewis G, Sanson H, Frederick V, Cerulo L, Rolland DCM, Mall R, Mokhtari K, Elenitoba-Johnson KSJ, Sanson M, Huang X, Ceccarelli M, Lasorella A, Iavarone A (2018) A metabolic function of FGFR3-TACC3 gene fusions in cancer. Nature . 553, 222–227  doi:10.1038/nature25171

Park NI, Guilhamon P, Desai K, McAdam RF, Langille E, O’Connor M, Lan X, Whetstone H, Coutinho FC, Vanner RJ, Ling E, Prinos P, Lee L, Selvadurai, H, Atwal G, Kushida M, Clarke ID, Voisin V, Cusimano MD, Bernstein M, Das S, Bader G, Arrowsmith CH, Angers S, Huang X, Lupien M, Dirks PB. (2017) ASCL1 reorganizes chromatin to direct neuronal fate and suppress tumorigenicity. Cell Stem Cell., 21(2):209-224.e7. PMID: 28712938

Agnihotri S, Golbourn B, Huang X, Remke M, Younger S, Cairns RA, Chalil A, Smith CA, Krumholtz SL, MacKenzie D, Rakopoulos P, Ramaswamy V, Taccone MS, Mischel PS, Fuller GN, Hawkins C, Stanford WL, Taylor MD, Zadeh G, Rutka JT. (2016) PINK1 is a Negative Regulator of Growth and the Warburg Effect in Glioblastoma. Cancer Res.  2016 June 20. PMID: 27325644

Morrissy AS, Garzia L, Shih DJ, Zuyderduyn S, Huang X, Skowron P, Remke M, Cavalli FM, Ramaswamy V, Marra Ma, Taylor MD, et al. Divergent clonal selection dominates medulloblastoma at recurrence. Nature. 2016 Jan 13. doi: 10.1038/nature16478.

Huang X*, He Y*, Dubuc AM*, Hashizume R, Zhang W, Reimand J, Yang H, Wang TA, Stehbens S, Younger S, Barshow S, Zhu S, Cooper MK, Peacock J, Ramaswamy V, Garzia L, Wu X, Remke M, Forester CM, Kim CC, Weiss WA, James CD, Shuman MA, Bader GD, Mueller S, Taylor MD, Jan YN, Jan LY. EAG2 potassium channel with evolutionarily conserved function as a brain tumor target. (2015) Nature Neuroscience doi: 10.1038/nn.4088. (* equal contribution)

Song Y, Salegio E, Berg J, Huang X, Han C, Beattie M, Bresnahan J, Jan LY, Jan YN. (2015) The RNA splicing/repair pathway regulates CNS axon regeneration in Drosophila and mice. Nature Neuroscience. 2015 Jun;18(6):817-25. doi: 10.1038/nn.4019. Epub 2015 May 11

Hashizume R, Andor N, Ihara Y, Lerner R, Gan H, Chen X, Fang D, Huang X, Tom MW, Ngo V, Solomon D, Mueller S, Paris PL, Zhang Z, Petritsch C, Gupta N, Waldman TA, James CD. (2014) Pharmacologic inhibition of histone demethylation as a therapy for pediatric brainstem glioma. Nature Medicine. (12): 1394-1396.

Huang X# and Jan LY#. (2014) Targeting potassium channels in cancer. Journal of Cell Biology. 206(2): 151-62. (# co-corresponding authors)

Huang X, Dubuc AM, Hashizume R, Berg J, He Y, Wang J, Chiang C, Cooper MK, Northcott PA, Taylor MD, Barnes MJ, Tihan T, Chen J, Hackett CS, Weiss WA, James CD, Rowitch DH, Shuman MA, Jan YN, Jan LY. (2012) Voltage-gated potassium channel EAG2 controls mitotic entry and tumor growth in medulloblastoma via regulating cell volume dynamics. Genes & Development. 15; 26(16): 1780-96. (cover article)

Cheng FY*, Huang X*, Sarangi A, Ketova T, Cooper MK, Litingtung Y, Chiang C. (2012) Widespread contribution of Gdf7 lineage to cerebellar cell types and implications for Hedgehog-driven medulloblastoma formation. PLoS ONE. 7(4): e35541. (* equal contribution)

Huang X, Ketova T, Litingtung Y, Chiang C. (2010) Isolation, enrichment and maintenance of medulloblastoma stem cells. Journal of Visualized Experiments. (43). pii: 2086.

Huang X, Sarangi A, Ketova T, Litingtung Y, Cooper MK, Chiang C. (2010) Intracranial orthotopic allografting of medulloblastoma cells in immunocompromised mice. Journal of Visualized Experiments. (44). pii: 2153.

Huang X, Liu J, Ketova T, Fleming JT, Grover VK, Cooper MK, Litingtung Y, Chiang C. (2010) Transventricular delivery of Sonic hedgehog is essential to cerebellar ventricular zone development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 107(18): 8422-7.

Huang X, Ketova T, Fleming JT, Wang H, Dey SK, Litingtung Y, Chiang C. (2009) Sonic hedgehog signaling regulates a novel epithelial progenitor domain of the hindbrain choroid plexus. Development. 136(15): 2535-43.

Oh S*, Huang X*, Liu J, Litingtung Y, Chiang C. (2009) Shh and Gli3 activities are required for timely generation of motor neuron progenitors. Developmental Biology. 331(2): 261-9. (* equal contribution)

Huang X*, Goudy SL*, Ketova T, Litingtung Y, Chiang C. (2008) Gli3-deficient mice exhibit cleft palate associated with abnormal tongue development. Developmental Dynamics. 237(10): 3079-87 (* equal contribution)

Fogel JL, Chiang C, Huang X, Agarwala S. (2008) Ventral specification and perturbed boundary formation in the mouse midbrain in the absence of Hedgehog signaling. Developmental Dynamics. 237(5): 1359-72

Huang X, Litingtung Y, Chiang C. (2007) Region-specific requirement for cholesterol modification of sonic hedgehog in patterning the telencephalon and spinal cord. Development. 134(11): 2095-10

Huang X, Litingtung Y, Chiang C. (2007) Ectopic sonic hedgehog signaling impairs telencephalic dorsal midline development: implication for human holoprosencephaly. Human Molecular Genetics. 16(12): 1454-68.

Oh S, Huang X, Chiang C. (2005) Specific requirements of sonic hedgehog signaling during oligodendrocyte development.  Developmental Dynamics. 234(3): 489-96.