Our research- Yihai Cao Group

Our research group studies the fundamental mechanisms of angiogenesis, the key process of blood vessel formation, in various diseases. Our aim is to understand molecular and functional mechanisms of angiogenesis in the onset and progression of most common and lethal human diseases such as cancer, metabolic disease, and cardiovascular disease.

Through these mechanistic studies, we propose new concepts and paradigms that are beneficial for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of these and other human diseases. The ultimate goal of our research is to develop novel therapeutics for treatment of angiogenesis-dependent diseases.

Research areas


We focus our efforts on studying alterations of the tumor microenvironment in affecting tumor growth, metastasis, and drug responses. We are particularly interested in studying the vascular functions in promoting tumor growth and metastasis and in understanding the mechanisms underlying antiangiogenic therapy. Our research mechanistic projects include:

1. Fundamental mechanisms of tumor angiogenesis

2. Studying the role of tumor vessels in supporting primary tumor growth

3. Tumor vessels and cancer metastasis

4. Lymphangiogensis and lymphatic metastasis

5. Interactions between tumor stromal cellular and molecular components

6. Tumor microenvironment in cancer metastasis

7. Antiangiogenic drug resistance

8. Cancer metabolism and anticancer drug response

9. Translational research towards clinical therapy

10. Defining novel therapeutic targets and development of more effective therapies

Obesity and Metabolic Diseases

We are interested in investigating the mechanisms and functions of the adipose vasculature in regulating adipose metabolism. We are beginning to understand the crucial roles of the adipose vasculature in modulating adipocyte functions under metabolic quiescent and active states. Targeting the adipose vasculature provides a new concept and paradigm for treating obesity, metabolic disease such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, and metabolic disease complications. Our research projects and interests include the following aspects:

1. Angiogenesis in obesity and metabolic disease

2. Vascular stem cells in contributing to adipose tissue development and functions

3. Interactions between vascular cells and adipocytes

4. Non-shivering thermogenesis in energy expenditure

5. Growth factors, adipocytokines, adipokines in mediating the vasculature-adipocyte dialog

6. Brown adipose tissue and browning white adipose tissues activation and metabolic disease

7. Vascular functions in development of liver steatosis and NASH

8. Endocrine functions of adipose tissues

9. Vascular roles in development of diabetic complications

10. Defining novel therapeutic targets for treatment of obesity and T2DM

Other projects

Our other research programs include therapeutic angiogenesis for treating cardiovascular disease, especially after myocardial infarction.  We have developed a novel regimen of combination therapy targeting both angiogenesis and arteriogenesis. We have also developed novel therapeutics that target vasculatures, fibrosis, and inflammation for treating eye diseases including age-related macular disease (AMD) and glaucoma. These novel therapeutics are ready for early clinical trials and preclinical studies demonstrated exciting therapeutic efficacy.

Content reviewer:
Sara Lidman