Shining a Light on Cell Transformation with 3D Technology: Dr. Jung Wook Park

By Liz Proper


Jung Wook Park, PhD, is at the forefront of innovative research in prostate cancer. Motivated by childhood curiosity and a familial encounter with pancreatic cancer, Park's journey led him to explore the intricacies of cancer biology, with a focus on understanding and manipulating DNA to stop cancer progression.

Jung Wook Park, PhD, and Ara Jo, PhD
Jung Wook Park, PhD, and Ara Jo, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Park Lab, (left) discuss ex vivo 3D imaging of organoids (red)

From studying human papillomavirus (HPV) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to working with human tissue samples at the University of California-Los Angeles, Park found a natural fit at Duke, where he was named as the first recipient of Duke's Rollie Endowed Assistant Professorship, which was generously funded by long-time, esteemed faculty couple Sara Miller, PhD, and David Howell, MD, PhD. His work benefits from diverse patient populations and thrives on collaborative opportunities within the Duke community.

As a principal investigator in his lab at Duke, Park employs a unique approach, studying both cancer cells and the surrounding healthy tissue. His innovative ex vivo 3D organoid culture system allows for a controlled environment to observe the transformation of healthy cells into cancer cells.

Emphasizing the unique advantages of his position, Park shared, “Being part of the Duke Pathology Department is great because I can get samples of both diseased and healthy tissue from the doctors who are mainly focused on a patient’s disease.” This method sheds light on the complexities of prostate cancer development and treatment resistance. 

 David Lee with pipette
David Lee, Park Lab technician, isolates DNA and RNA from organoids

Park envisions his research as a crucial part of the larger cancer-fighting effort, aiming to detect cancer at its earliest stage for more effective interventions. His ultimate goals are connected to early detection in order to prevent one type of cancer from transforming into another, and to provide hope for patients battling cancer.