Translational Molecular Medicine

Professor Dave S. Hoon, M.Sc., Ph.D.

Assistant Professors
Matthew P. Salomon, Ph.D.
Diego M. Marzese, Ph.D.

Dept. Manager
Nousha Javanmardi, M.Sc., MBA

Goals and Areas of Research

The key focus of the Department of Translational Molecular Medicine is the development and translational application of transcriptomic/genomic/epigenomic biomarkers as diagnostic, prognostic and predictive tools in patients with solid tumors, particularly melanoma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and gastrointestinal tract cancers. . For the past 20 years, our emphasis has been on occult tumor cell detection in lymph nodes (Sentinel Lymph Node) and blood circulating tumor cells (CTC). This highly productive group has published more than 330 peer-reviewed studies and reviews. Over the last 25 years, the Department has trained many clinical and laboratory postdoctoral scientists for successful careers in translational molecular medicine at academic institutions in the United States, Japan, the Netherlands, Argentina and China.

The Department has developed novel tests to detect biomarkers of tumor-related gene expression (mRNA), genomic aberrations and epigenomic changes (gene promoter methylation, noncoding repeat sequences, microRNA). Combinations of these biomarkers represent signatures for the presence and progression of cancer. Molecular RNA/DNA biomarkers are used to detect occult metastatic tumor cells in tumor-draining lymph nodes (sentinel lymph nodes) and body fluids (blood) of cancer patients; results are applied to improve staging of disease and to develop prognostic indicators of cancer outcome.

The Department has pioneered novel assays to detect microRNA and DNA biomarkers of cell-free circulating nucleic-acid biomarkers detected in blood from patients with various solid tumors. These biomarkers, which reflect changes in microsatellite instability (loss of heterozygosity), methylation, mutation, microRNA and/or DNA integrity, are being used to determine prognosis and predict response to treatment. These studies have involved assessment of serial bleed specimens obtained in international Phase II/III multicenter clinical trials, a logistical feat made possible by the Department’s rigorously controlled specimen-collection and assay protocols.

The Department also is assessing aberrant cancer and immune molecular pathways to identify potential molecular targets for development of cancer therapeutics. Mechanisms of epigenomic and SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism)-related regulatory events in abnormal gene expression are being studied in various solid tumor types.

Recent Research Supports

The Department has strong collaborative programs in translational studies developed with global and industry partners. We have received awards from the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute (R01, P01, R33), the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation (AMRF), Department of Defense, USA, California Breast Cancer Research Program, the Associates of Breast and Prostate Cancer Studies (ABCs),the Avon Foundation, Melanoma Research Alliance, the Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Foundation, Ruth Weil Family Fund and Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer for the Cure.

The Department’s national and international reach is also shown by active collaborations with Broad Institute MGH (Boston), Genome Institute Singapore (Singapore), National University (Singapore), Fudan University Shanghai Medical College, Huashan Hospital’s Neurosurgery Center (Shanghai), Tel Aviv University’s Cancer Biology Research Center (Israel), the Technion, Haifa (Israel), Keio University, Department of Surgery (Tokyo), Leiden University Medical Center (Netherlands), MD Anderson (Houston), City of Hope Department of Immunoregulation (Duarte, CA).

Looking Forward

We are highly focused on developing quantitative translational oncology tools to improve management of solid tumor cancer patients. Discoveries made in molecular studies are rapidly translated for application at the bedside. We have partnered with biotech and pharmaceutical companies in developing treatment protocols and new molecular oncology approaches, the results of which may increase overall survival and eventually expedite development of a cure for patients with solid tumor cancers.

Internship Opportunities

Department of Translational Molecular Medicine offers internship opportunities for postdoctoral and graduate students who have a strong science background and are interested in translational molecular medicine studies. Please contact Nousha Javanmardi for more information.