Deborah Lang, PhD

Associate Professor of Dermatology

Academic Titles

Associate Professor of Dermatology


Our research goals are to discover innovative and effective treatments for melanoma by targeting innate pathways that occur during normal melanocyte development and stem cell maintenance.  We find that the normal molecular processes that regulate cellular differentiation, homeostasis, growth, and migration of adult and embryonic melanocytes are corrupted during melanoma tumorigenesis, progression, and metastasis.  The discovery of these molecular pathways and knowledge on how they function will reveal new targets for future melanoma therapies.


1992 B.S., Chemistry, Philadelphia University, Philadelphia PA
1998 Ph.D. Molecular Pathobiology, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
2004 Fellowship, Molecular and Developmental Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

Research Interests

  • Melanoma, melanocytes, molecular biology, gene transcription and transcription factors.

Selected Publications

  1. Little, E.C., Kubic, J.D., Salgia, R., Grippo, P.J., Lang, D. 2017 PAX6 and CXCR4 canonical and alternate transcript expression in pancreatic cancer. Oncology Letters 2017 Jun;13(6):4027-4034. PMID: 28588695. PMCID: PMC5452919
  2. Lui, J.W., Xiao, S., Ogomori, K., Hammarstedt, J., Little, E.C., Lang, D. 2019 The efficiency of Verteporfin as a therapeutic option in pre-clinical models of melanoma. J of Cancer 10:(1)1-10 PMID: 30662519. PMCID: PCM6329844 *Cover article
  3. Zhai, Y., Haresi, A.J., Huang, L., Lang, D. 2020 Differences in tumor initiation and progression of melanoma in the BrafCA;Tyr-CreERT2;Ptenf/f model between male and female mice. Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research 33:(1)119-121 PMID: 31449725
  4. Huang*, L., Zhai*, Y., La*,J, Lui, J.W., Moore, S.P.G., Little, E.C., Xiao, S., Haresi, A.J., Brem, C., Bhawan, J., Lang, D. 2021 Targeting pan-ETS factors inhibits melanoma progression. Cancer Research 81:2071-85 PMID: 33526511
  5. Lui*, J.W., Moore*, S.P.G., Huang, L., Ogomori, K., Li, Y., Lang, D. 2022 YAP facilitates melanoma migration through regulation of actin-related protein 2/3 complex subunit 5 (ARPC5). Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research 35:(1)52-65 PMID: 34468072 *Top cited paper 2023 in journal
  6. Huang, L., Zhai, Y., Fajardo, C.D. Lang, D. 2022 YK-4-279 attenuates progression of pre-existing pigmented lesions to nodular melanoma in a mouse model. Cancers 14:(1)143 PMID: 35008307. PMCID: PMC8749984.
  7. Vittoria, M.A., Kingston, N., Xia, E., Hong, R., Huang, H., McDonald, S., Tilston-Lunel, A., Darp, R., Campbell, J., Lang, D., Xu, X., Ceol, C., Varelas, X., Ganem, N.J. 2022 Inactivation of HIPPO tumor suppressor pathway promotes melanoma. Nature Comm 13:3732 PMID: 35768444
  8. Kubic, J. D., Little, E. C., Kaiser, R.S., Young, K.P., Lang, D. 2016 FOXD3 promotes PAX3 expression in melanoma cells. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 117(2):533-41PMID: 26252164
  9. Kubic, J.D., Lui, J.W., Little, E.C., Ludvik, A.E., Konda, S., Salgia, R., Aplin, A.E., Lang, D. 2015 PAX3 and FOXD3 promote CXCR4 expression in melanoma. Journal of Biological Chemistry 290:(36)21901-14. PMID: 26205821, PMCID: PMC4571945
  10. Kubic, J.D., Little, E.C., Lui, J.W., Iizuka, T., Lang, D. 2015 PAX3 and ETS1 synergistically activate MET expression in melanoma cells. Oncogene 34:(38)4964-74. PMID: 25531327, PMCID: PMC4476961
  11. Kubic, J.D., Mascarenhas, J.B., Iizuka, T., Wolfgeher, D., Lang, D. 2012. Glycogen Synthase Kinase promotes cell survival, growth, and PAX3 levels in human melanoma cells. Molecular Cancer Research 10:(8)1065-1076. PMID: 22679108, PMCID: PMC3422428  *Manuscript selected as a highlighted article by AACR.
  12. Mascarenhas, J.B., Littlejohn, E.L., Wolsky, R.J., Young, K.P., Salgia, R., Lang, D. 2010. PAX3 and SOX10 activate MET receptor expression in melanoma. Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research 23:225-37.  PMID: 20067553 PMCID: PMC2979310
  13. Mascarenhas, J.B., Young, K.P., Littlejohn, E.L., Yoo, B.K., Salgia, R., Lang, D. 2009. PAX6 is expressed in pancreatic cancer and actively participates in cancer progression through the activation of the MET tyrosine kinase receptor gene. Journal of Biological Chemistry 284:(40)27524-32. PMID: 19651775
  14. Lang, D., Lu, M.M., Huang, L., Engleka, K., Zhang, M., Chu, E.Y., Lipner, S., Skoultchi, A., Millar, S., and Epstein, J.A. 2005. Pax3 functions at a nodal point in adult melanocyte stem cell differentiation. Nature 433:884-7.