Van Andel Institute welcomes cancer metabolism expert Dr. Evan Lien

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (June 30, 2022) — Van Andel Institute has recruited cancer metabolism expert Evan Lien, Ph.D., to its growing faculty, an addition that further expands the Institute’s research into the underlying causes of cancer.

As an assistant professor in the Department of Metabolism and Nutritional Programming, Lien will investigate the intersection between diet and cancer, with a focus on how dietary changes may impact tumor development and growth. He is slated to arrive in Grand Rapids later this summer.

“Diet is such an important determinant of human health, but there is still so much we do not understand about the molecular and biochemical interactions between nutrition and cancer progression,” Lien said. “I am thrilled to join the Department of Metabolism and Nutritional Programming at VAI, where we will have the extensive expertise and state-of-the-art resources to answer these questions.”

Cancer cells have voracious appetites for nutrients and energy, which they use to fuel their uncontrolled growth and invade healthy tissue. Using cutting-edge techniques, Lien and his lab aim to uncover how variations in a person’s diet may influence tumor growth and metabolism. He then plans to translate his findings into actionable strategies for improving cancer treatment and response.

“Dr. Lien is an outstanding early career scientist whose groundbreaking research has already earned national recognition,” said Russell Jones, Ph.D., chair of VAI’s Department of Metabolism and Nutritional Programming. “Understanding the role of diet and metabolism in cancer is a growing field with untold implications for human health. We look forward to Dr. Lien’s bright future here in Grand Rapids and the impact he is sure to have.”

Lien currently is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Matthew G. Vander Heiden, M.D., Ph.D., at MIT Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. His research into the genetic and environmental factors that regulate cancer cell metabolism have earned him numerous accolades, including a Damon Runyon Postdoctoral Fellowship and a National Cancer Institute K99/R00 grant — both highly competitive, prestigious awards. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University, where he studied metabolism’s role in breast cancer.

Lien is the seventh faculty member to join VAI in since January 2021. His recruitment is part of an ongoing strategic initiative to expand and bolster VAI’s research programs.


Van Andel Institute (VAI) is committed to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations through cutting-edge biomedical research and innovative educational offerings. Established in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1996 by the Van Andel family, VAI is now home to nearly 500 scientists, educators and support staff, who work with a growing number of national and international collaborators to foster discovery. The Institute’s scientists study the origins of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases and translate their findings into breakthrough prevention and treatment strategies. Our educators develop inquiry-based approaches for K-12 education to help students and teachers prepare the next generation of problem-solvers, while our Graduate School offers a rigorous, research-intensive Ph.D. program in molecular and cellular biology. Learn more at vai.org.