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Leading esophageal cancer researcher to join UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Dr. Zui Pan

Zui Pan, a noted Ohio State University College of Medicine esophageal cancer researcher who has earned national recognition for her work toward discovering biomarkers for the disease, joins The University of Texas at Arlington’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation in August as an associate professor of nursing.

Pan, has received nearly $2 million in grant funding in her search for effective biomarkers for the treatment of esophageal cancer, has published scores of journal articles and holds two patents. Her work has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute and the American Diabetes Association, among other sources.

Pan’s appointment is made possible in part by a grant from the University of Texas System Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention, or STARs, program. Founded by the UT System Board of Regents in 2004, the Faculty STARs program provides additional startup funding needed to attract scholars of national reputation and with exceptional promise in research and teaching.

“I am excited about coming on board at UTA, an institution that is rapidly evolving into one of the nation’s leading research universities,” said Pan, who most recently has led a research team at The James - OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center. “The fact that UTA has made a healthcare research a super priority makes it a very attractive place for me to do my work.”

Anne Bavier, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, called Pan’s appointment a coup for UTA and for the College. Pan’s work will strengthen the University’s commitment to advancing health and the human condition under the  Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

“Dr. Pan’s impressive history of research publication and funding acquisition is a big feather in our cap,” Bavier said. “She will provide the necessary expertise to mentor junior and mid-level faculty.  She will also work closely with other senior faculty on research projects and help create additional grant opportunities within our college.”

At UTA, Pan says she plans to continue to pursue her research into finding strategies for extending the lives of esophageal cancer patients. Her team has identified a protein named Orai1 that is strongly associated with esophageal tumor progression. The team’s current work focuses on how the protein contributes to tumor initiation and progression. Pan also plans to evaluate the protein as a potential biomarker for esophageal cancer detection and prognosis with a goal of developing more effective therapeutic interventions for patients suffering from the disease.

Pan’s interest in esophageal cancer research stems in part from having had friends and acquaintances who have been afflicted by the disease.

“There is an urgent need to identify effective biomarkers for early detection as well as novel therapeutic interventions for esophageal cancer,” she said. “The long-term survival rate for esophageal cancer is very poor. Yet, the research effort in the U.S. on this deadly disease is not as intense as it should be. This is a huge priority in the healthcare space.”

Pan joins a growing roster of world-class faculty members who have joined UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation in the past year, among them:

  • Marco Brotto, a respected muscle physiology scientist;
  • Mark Haykowsky, an internationally renowned researcher in exercise physiology and rehabilitation medicine;
  • Paul Fadel, a prominent physiology integrative researcher and expert in neural cardio-vascular control in health and disease.

Duane Dimos, UTA’s vice president for research, said Pan’s work will expand relationships with the medical and health science community across North Texas and bolster the university’s growing reputation as a leading healthcare research institution.

“Dr. Pan is an extraordinary teacher and scholar,” Dimos said. “Her distinguished career in health science research coupled with critically important research focused on early detection and treatment of this rare form of cancer make her a vitally important addition to UTA.”

Linda Johnsrud, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, expressed appreciation for UT System’s support in recruiting Pan and said that the Faculty STARs program is helping attract new faculty members with extraordinary potential to UTA.

“Increasingly, we are attracting successful scholars, teachers and researchers who want to help shape a rising, globally-focused research university into the urban flagship that UTA is becoming,” Johnsrud said. “Success breeds success, and we welcome Dr. Pan to the UTA faculty and see no limits for her future.”

Pan holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biophysics from Nankai University in China and a doctorate in molecular biology from the Institute of Biophysics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

She was a post-doctoral research fellow in physiology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and has held faculty appointments in the departments of physiology, biophysics and pharmacology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine. At the medical school, she also served for nine years as director of confocal microscopy and cell imaging core.

Pan has published more than 70 articles in scholarly journal and has presented papers at numerous national and international conferences. She received one patent in July 2011 for a method for identifying diabetic patients at increased risk for pathological complications and another in December 2011 for methods for modulating store-operated calcium entry.

About the UTA College of Nursing and Health Innovation

UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation is a National League for Nursing Center of Excellence and encompasses one of the nation’s largest and most successful nursing schools and a renowned kinesiology program offering degrees in exercise science, kinesiology, athletic training and an undergraduate track in public health. The College is the largest producer of registered nurses in Texas and a leader in the use of online platforms and simulation technology to help more students achieve nursing degrees. U.S. News & World Report ranks the Master of Science in Nursing program and the online Master of Science in Nursing degree among the best in the country. The College’s highly regarded faculty is dedicated to advancing health and the human condition and investigates a wide range of topics in basic science, human performance and clinical conditions.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Research 1 – Carnegie “highest research activity” institution of more than 53,000 degree-seeking students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at