Meet the Leidos Biomedical Research Team: 5 Minutes with Xi "Hill" Liu, Ph.D.
Xi “Hill" Liu, Ph.D., is the senior principal scientist leading the Molecular Pharmacology Program at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNLCR), sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. With rich experience in pre-clinical cancer pharmacology and drug discovery, Hill is a passionate leader in oncology drug discovery and immunotherapy research and development. His Molecular Pharmacology Program team conducts investigator-initiated basic, translational and clinical research focused on lung cancer pharmacology and experimental therapeutics.
How would you describe your job to an 8th grader?
Our work is to search for cancer's weaknesses and research new medication to fight cancer, especially lung cancer. One of our basic strategies is looking for differences between cancer cells and normal cells. For example, we found that certain cancer cells heavily depend on a specific protein while normal cells do not. This means if we can find a way to inhibit that protein, we may be able to kill the cancer cells while sparing normal cells.
What inspires you about how your work advances biomedical science and improves human health?
Knowing that our discovery may help cancer patients inspires me. Unfortunately, I often hear from friends and relatives who want advice on their family members' cancer therapy—usually, once they've already exhausted currently available options. At that point, they want to know whether there's an experimental clinical trial they can join. These conversations keep me focused and give my work real-life meaning.
What advice do you have for an aspiring scientist?
Remember that we work to help and hopefully cure patients—not for grants or publications. Organizations like Frederick National Lab make it easier not to worry about grants, but it can be harder not to focus on publication. While it's our duty to publish, remember that our goal is to ask scientific questions and figure out how to answer them. When our research answers a scientific question, it's certain to generate a good publication.
How is your work at FNLCR unique among other cancer research organizations?
FNLCR provides a unique environment in that we are encouraged to conduct high-risk research. Because high-risk research is more likely to fail, others are less likely to pursue it. If it succeeds, though, this research could also have a great impact on cancer therapy. It's essential. FNLCR also develops cutting-edge technology and unique resources that are not usually available in other institutes.
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I would visit Florence, Italy. I hope to view art from the Renaissance.