Dr. Duxin Sun is a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the J.G. Searle Endowed Professor in the College of Pharmacy. He also serves as the director of the Pharmacokinetics (PK) Core, and holds joint appointments in the Program in Chemical Biology, the Interdisciplinary Medicinal Chemistry program, and the University of Michigan’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

Dr. Sun’s research interests focus on drug discovery to inhibit cancer stem cells and nanomedicine for cancer therapeutics. In addition, his lab is also interested in ADME and pharmacokinetics for lead compound optimization, as well as drug release of modified release (MR) drug products in the human GI tract. 

Dr. Sun has published more than 150 papers, 98 meeting abstracts, 10 book chapters, and 12 U.S. patents. He has supervised 29 PhD students and 40 postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists. Dr. Sun is a Fellow of American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) and has served as chair of the PPB (Physical Pharmacy and Biopharmaceutics) section in AAPS; he also serves on the FDA Pharmaceutical Science and Clinical Pharmacology Advisory Committee. Dr. Sun is the Vice President of the American Chinese Pharmaceutical Association (ACPA). Dr. Sun has served on study sections for NIH, FDA, Cancer Research UK, French National Research Agency, and Italian Ministry of Health.

Feature Story
The Chemistry of Success

Duxin Sun, PhD, and Shaomeng Wang, PhD, a U-M professor of medicinal chemistry, medicine, and pharmacology, share complementary research interests.

Research Interests

  • Small molecules to block protein-protein interactions


    The goal of this project is to investigate protein-protein interactions in the Hsp90 complex for the regulation of a subset of oncogenic proteins, and to study protein-protein interactions in the PRC2 complex for epigenetic histone modification in cancer stem cells. Small molecules are developed to block these protein-protein interactions for cancer stem cell therapeutics. 


  • Novel cancer stem cell targets and therapeutics of cancer stem cells by natural products


    The goal of this project is to investigate molecular mechanisms in cancer stem cells (CSC), and to identify natural products to eliminate CSCs, thereby decreasing cancer metastasis, reducing recurrence, and improving patient survival.


  • Nanotheranostics for targeted drug delivery and imaging of cancer stem cells


    The goal of this project is to develop nanosatellites and Janus nanostructures. Nanosatellites are used for MRI imaging and near-infrared triggered photothermal therapy (PTT) to eliminate cancer stem cells and enhance immunotherapy. The Janus nanostructure is used for drug delivery of anti-cancer-stem-cell drugs and cancer imaging. 


  • Drug dissolution in human gastrointestinal tract in vivo for controlled drug release product


    The goal of this project is to directly measure drug dissolution in the human GI tract in vivo and establish a computation model to ensure product quality and bioequivalence (BE) in human patients.


  • Pharmacokinetics Core


    Dr. Sun serves as Director of the Pharmacokinetics (PK) Core at the University of Michigan. The PK Core has four objectives: (A) To support preclinical pharmacokinetics and metabolism for lead compound selection and dose regimen optimization, which enhances drug discovery & development; (B) To support clinical pharmacokinetics and optimize dose regimen in clinical studies, which supports and increases investigator-initiated clinical trials (phase I and phase II); (C) To increase grants, publications, and patent applications; (D) To train students and postdoctoral fellows with special expertise in DMPK studies.


Selected Publications

  • Hongwei Chen, Hayley Paholak, Masayuki Ito, Kanokwan Sansanaphongpricha, Wei Qian, Yong Che, Duxin Sun. “Living” PEGylation on gold nanoparticles to optimize cancer cell uptake by controlling targeting ligand and charge densities. Nanotechnology, 2013, 24(35):355101.

  • Bryan Newman, Yan Liu, Hsiu-Fang Lee, Duxin Sun, Yin Wang. HSP90 inhibitor 17-AAG selectively eradicates lymphoma stem cells. Cancer Research, 2012, 72(17):4551-61.

  • Zou P, Yu Y, Zheng N, Yang Y, Paholak HJ, Yu LX, Sun D. Applications of human pharmacokinetic prediction in first-in-human dose estimation. AAPS J, 2012, 14:262-81.

  • Yanyan Li, Tao Zhang, Hasan Korkaya, Suling Liu, Yanke Yu, Hsiu-Fang Lee, Bryan Newman, Shawn G. Clouthier, Steven J. Schwartz, Max S. Wicha, Duxin Sun. Sulforaphane, a dietary component of broccoli/broccoli sprouts, inhibits breast cancer stem cells. Clinical Cancer Research, 2010, 16:2580-90.

  • Tao Zhang, Yanyan Li, Yiqun Jiang, Duxin Sun. Characterization of celastrol to inhibit Hsp90 and Cdc37 interaction. J Biol Chem, 2009, 284:35381-9.