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Min Yu, PhD

Academic Title:

Associate Professor

Primary Appointment:


Additional Title:

Associate Professor


655 W. Baltimore Street

Phone (Primary):

410-706-6479 (office)

Phone (Secondary):

410-706-6608 (lab)

Education and Training

Shandong Medical University, China, MBBS (MD equivalent), 1997

Peking University Health Science Center, China, Master in Neurology, 2000

SUNY Stony Brook and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, PhD, 2006

Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Postdoctoral Fellow, 2014



Dr. Yu's laboratory is interested in understanding the genetic, epigenetic and microenvironmental regulations of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) that lead to initiation of cancer metastasis in various organs. The overarching goal is to be able to utilize CTCs from blood samples of cancer patients as a non-invasive “liquid biopsy” to inform the prognostic and therapeutic interventions for metastasis.

Dr. Yu obtained her PhD in Genetics from SUNY Stony Brook under the guidance of Dr. Senthil Muthuswamy at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, investigating transcriptomic changes of mammary epithelial cells during three-dimensional morphogenesis growing in Matrigel in comparison to monolayer cultures. She subsequently obtained training in the field of CTCs and cancer metastasis in the laboratory of HHMI investigator Dr. Daniel Haber at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Harvard Medical School. She established her independent laboratory in 2014 at University of Southern California and obtained tenure promotion as Associate Professor in 2021. Since January 2023, she became an Associate Professor at Department of Pharmacology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.

Research/Clinical Keywords

Circulating tumor cells, Cancer metastasis, Brain metastasis, Breast cancer, Liquid Biopsy

Highlighted Publications

Kang DS*, Moriarty A*, Wang YJ, Thomas A, Hao J, Unger BA, Klotz R, Ahmmed S, Amzaleg Y, Martin S, Vanapalli S, Xu K, Smith A, Shen K, Yu M. Ectopic expression of a truncated isoform of hair keratin 81 in breast cancer alters biophysical characteristics to promote metastatic propensity. Advanced Science 2024, Feb; 11(5): e2300509.

Kamal M, Wang YJ, Plummer S, Dickerson A, Yu M. An image-based identification of aggressive breast cancer circulating tumor cell subtypes. Cancers 2023, 15(10), 2669

Teng T, Kamal M, Iriondo O, Amzaleg Y, Luo C, Thomas A, Lee G, Hsu C, Nguyen JD, Kang I, Hicks J, Smith A, Sposto R, Yu M. N-Acetyl-L-cysteine promotes ex vivo growth and expansion of single circulating tumor cells by mitigating cellular stress responses. Molecular Cancer Research, 2021; 19 (3): 441-450.

Klotz R, Thomas A, Teng T, Iriondo O, Li L, Restrepo-Vasslli S, Han J, Wang A, Izadian N, Mackay M, Moon BS, Ganesan SK, Lee G, Kang DS, Walmsley CS, Press M, Lu W, Lu J, Juric D, Bardia A, Hicks J, Salhia B, Smith A, Yu M. Circulating tumor cells exhibit metastatic tropism and reveal brain metastasis drivers. Cancer Discovery. 2020; 10(1):86-103.

Kamal M, Saremi S, Klotz R, Iriondo O, Amzaleg Y, Chairez Y, Tulpule V, Lang JE, Kang I, Yu M. PIC&RUN: An integrated assay for the detection and retrieval of single viable circulating tumor cells. Scientific Reports. 2019;9 (1):17470.

Ortiz V, Yu M. Analyzing Circulating Tumor Cells One at a Time. Trends in Cell Biology. 2018, 28(10):764-775.

Iriondo O, Liu Y, Lee G, Elhodaky M, Jimenez C, Li L, Lang J, Wang P, Yu M. TAK1 mediates microenvironment-triggered autocrine signals and promotes triple-negative breast cancer lung metastasis. Nature Communications. 2018 May 18;9(1):1994.

Jordan NV, Bardia A, Wittner BS, Benes C, Ligorio M, Zheng Y, Yu M, Sundaresan TK, Licausi JA, Desai R, O'Keefe RM, Ebright RY, Boukhali M, Sil S, Onozato ML, Iafrate AJ, Kapur R, Sgroi D, Ting DT, Toner M, Ramaswamy S, Haas W, Maheswaran S, Haber DA. HER2 expression identifies dynamic functional states within circulating breast cancer cells. Nature. 2016, 537(7618):102-106.

Aceto N, Bardia A, Miyamoto DT, Donaldson MC, Wittner B, Spencer JA, Yu M, Pely A, Engstrom A, Zhu H, Brannigan BW, Kapur R, Stott SL, Shioda T, Ramaswamy S, Ting DT, Lin CP, Toner M, Haber DA, Maheswaran S. Circulating tumor cell clusters are oligoclonal precursors of breast cancer metastasis. Cell. 2014, 158(5):1110-22.

Yu M, Bardia A, Aceto N, Bersani F, Madden MW, Donaldson MC, Desai R, Zhu H, Comaills V, Zheng Z, Stojanov P, Brachtel E, Sgroi D, Kapur R, Shioda T, Ting DT, Ramaswamy S, Getz G, Iafrate JA, Benes C, Toner M, Maheswaran S, Haber DA. Ex vivo culture of circulating breast tumor cells for individualized testing of drug susceptibility. Science. 2014, 345(6193):216-20.

Yu M*, Bardia A*, Wittner BS, Stott SL, Smas ME, Ting DT, Isakoff SJ, Ciciliano JC, Wells MN, Shah AM, Concannon KF, Donaldson MC, Sequist LV, Brachtel E, Sgroi D, Baselga J, Ramaswamy S, Toner M, Haber DA, Maheswaran S. Circulating breast tumor cells exhibit dynamic changes in epithelial and mesenchymal composition. Science. 2013, 339(6119): 580-584. *Equal contributions.

Yu M*, Ting DT*, Stott SL, Wittner BS, Ozsolak F, Paul S, Ciciliano JC, Smas ME, Winokur D, Gilman AJ, Ulman MJ, Xega K, Contino G, Alagesan B, Brannigan BW, Milos PM, Ryan DP, Sequist LV, Bardeesy N, Ramaswamy S, Toner M, Maheswaran S, Haber DA.  RNA sequencing of circulating tumor cells implicates non-canonical WNT signaling in pancreatic cancer metastasis. Nature. 2012, 487(7408): 510-3. *Equal contributions.

Yu M, Lin G, Arshadi N, Kalatskaya I, Xue B, Haider S, Nguyen F, Boutros PC, Elson A, Muthuswamy LB, Tonks NK, Muthuswamy SK. Expression profiling during mammary epithelial cell 3D morphogenesis identifies PTPRO as a novel regulator of morphogenesis and ErbB2 mediated transformation. Mol. Cell Biol. 2012, 32(19):3913-24. 

Yu M, Stott S, Toner M, Maheswaran S, Haber DA. Circulating tumor cells: approaches to isolation and characterization. J Cell Biol. 2011, 192(3): 373-82.

Yu M, Smolen GA, Zhang J, Wittner B, Schott BJ, Brachtel E, Ramaswamy S, Maheswaran S, Haber DA. A developmentally regulated inducer of EMT, LBX1, contributes to breast cancer progression. Genes Dev. 2009, 23(15):1737-42.


Additional Publication Citations

Awards and Affiliations

2005    Kevin King/John Miller Travel Scholarship Awards, SUNY Stony Brook

2011    Cancer Center Retreat Poster award, MGH Cancer Center

2013    American Cancer Society - MGH Institutional Research Grant Award, MGH

2014    Career Transition Award (K22), National Cancer Institute (NCI)

2014    Ming Hsieh Institute for Engineering Medicine for Cancer Award, USC

2015    Marni Levine Memorial Research Career Development Award, STOP CANCER Foundation

2015    Donald E. and Delia B. Baxter Foundation Faculty Fellowship Award, Baxter Foundation

2015    Pew-Stewart Scholar for Cancer Research, Pew Charitable Trusts

2015    Career Catalyst Research Grant (Awarded but declined), Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation

2015    “40 Under Forty” Award, Stony Brook University

2015    NIH Director’s New Innovator Award (DP2), NIH

2016    Wright Foundation Pilot Grant Award, Wright Foundation

2017    Finalist, Agilent Early Career Professor Award, Agilent

2017    Keynote speaker, The 4th Thomas Ashworth CTC and liquid biopsy symposium

2018    Elected Vice Chair (2020) and Chair (2022) for GRC Liquid Biopsy for Cancer

2018    Pilot Grant award, Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI)

2018    Richard N. Merkin Assistant Professorship, Richard N. Merkin Foundation           

2019    The USC Broad Innovation Grant Award, USC Stem Cell Institute

2019    Breast Cancer Research Program Era of Hope Scholar Award, Department of Defense

2019    Keynote speaker, UCLA Molecular Biology Institute Retreat         

2020    Keynote speaker, SelectBio Circulating Biomarkers Conference

2021    Ming Hsieh Institute for Engineering Medicine for Cancer Award, USC

2023    METAvivor Research Award, METAvior Foundation

Grants and Contracts

1R01CA252752-01 (PI: Yu)                                                                                                                          



Mechanisms of SEMA4D mediated breast cancer to brain metastasis


BC190453 Era of Hope Scholar Award (PI: Yu)                                                                   



Understanding and targeting breast cancer metastasis-initiating circulating tumor cells and niches


MetAvivor Foundation, Translational Research Grant (PI:Yu)


Targeting IGFBP3 signaling as a novel therapy for ESR1-Y537S mutant driven bone metastasis


R01CA279108-A1 (MPI: Yu, Richer)


The pro-metastatic role of androgen receptor in estrogen receptor mutated breast cancer

Academic Positions

2014 - 2021        Assistant Professor, Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine & Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Southern California

2021 - 2023        Associate Professor, Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, & Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Southern California

2023 –present   Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology & Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Maryland School of Medicine

Lab positions available

Postdoctoral Fellow position in Cancer Research

Understanding the mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis

The Min Yu Lab at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore has openings for 2 Postdoctoral Fellows. We study the molecular mechanisms underlying breast cancer metastasis. We seek to understand mechanisms that promote circulating tumor cell survival and adaptation in secondary organs to form metastasis. We utilize common breast cancer cell lines, patient-derived circulating tumor cells and tumor tissues, with in vitro and in vivo studies and state-of-the-art technologies, including single cell multi-omics and spatial transcriptomics, to evaluate epigenetic and microenvironmental regulations during the metastatic process. Ongoing projects focus on brain metastasis, bone metastasis, tumor microenvironment induced long term effect, as well as the interplay of hormone receptors (ER and AR). Our long-term goal is to identify critical mechanisms that can be targeted for suppressing and treating metastasis. We strive to foster a lab environment that is inspiring, innovative, and critical, as well as supportive, collegial, and inclusive.


The ideal candidate should have a relevant technical expertise and strong communication and writing skills.

Candidates should have earned a PhD degree (or equivalent) in biology, genetics, molecular cell biology, biomedical sciences, biomedical engineering, computational biology or a related field. The ideal candidate preferably has experience in cancer biology, molecular biology, epigenetics and/or analysis of large datasets. We particularly encourage applications from any underrepresented or minority group.

Qualified applicants should send a letter describing their current and future research interests, their CV, and names and contact details for two references to

The University of Maryland, Baltimore is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. Minorities, women, protected veterans and individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply.