Translational Research Center

At our Translational Research Center, Bench (basic) research is conducted in the laboratory at a benchtop. Translational studies move bench findings from the laboratory to the bedside. Translational studies can be based on patient populations or patient specimens, and they may or may not be linked to clinical trials. There are many types of translational study designs, but all translational research has the same goal, to bridge the gap between science and medicine.

About Our Translational Research Center

Our lab-based translational studies are designed so that results can be quickly applied to improve treatments and tests for cancer. Clinical specimens obtained under approved protocols are examined in benchtop studies, the results of which may guide the design of preclinical (animal) or early clinical trials. We also run multicenter clinical trials that include translational correlative studies to identify molecular or immunologic markers of clinical outcome. Thus our research moves back and forth from bench to bedside and back again.

This dynamic, interactive approach has allowed our scientists to lay the foundation for therapeutic discoveries that receive worldwide attention.For example, JWCI’s Translational Molecular Medicine Department, led by Dr. Dave Hoon, has been a driving force behind the recent developments in targeted (personalized) therapies for melanoma. His group has developed a specialized blood test to detect the BRAF mutation that is found in many melanomas. This mutation is now the basis for an effective targeted therapy called vermurafenib (Zelboraf) that recently received FDA approval for treatment of advanced melanoma. Dr. Hoon’s group is currently developing another biomarker that may become the basis for additional therapy to complement vermurafenib. Some of the recent results of these studies are now published and are available as a resource for other physicians around the world.

Meanwhile, our Translational Immunology Department, is studying populations of patients with enhanced immunity to melanocytes (the autoimmune disease vitiligo) and examining archived specimens of tumor tissue. Using these translational tools to identify key pathways of the immune response to melanoma may provide insights to fighting cancer in general.

Translational Molecular Medicine

Postdoctoral Lab-Based Translational Molecular Medicine Fellowship

As pioneers in translational studies on “liquid biopsies” involving circulating tumor cells in multiple types of solid tumors, the fellowship program also consists of studying epigenetic mechanisms regulating solid tumor as well as pharmacogenomics and immunogenomic based prediction of response to therapy.

Learn more about this fellowship
DNA strand

Sequencing Center

The John Wayne Cancer Institute Sequencing Center is an Illumina Propel-Certified Service Provider, one of a few select laboratories in a collaborative service partnership with Illumina that have demonstrated proficiency in next generation sequencing at the highest industry standard. We provide sequencing services to both internal and external researchers and welcome opportunities to discuss with you how we can meet your specific research needs.








Specimen Repository

We maintain a unique bank of frozen or paraffin-embedded melanoma specimens collected since 1971. This specimen repository is linked to our historical database, an information system that was begun in 1971 by Dr. Donald Morton and Dr. Robert Elashoff, and now contains records for more than 14,600 melanoma patients.

The specimen repository includes sera, lymphocytes and tumor cells, tumor tissues and normal tissues, and cell lines.

There are more than a million vials of sera and almost 150,000 vials of lymphocytes for cellular assays. Serial serum samples obtained from patients during regular clinic visits or according to multicenter trial protocols enable the immediate study of the relationship of tumor markers to the course of disease. Many specimens are linked to extended follow-up data and clinical outcomes, making them invaluable for correlative studies. The annotated specimen bank and electronic clinical database are used in tandem for prospective and retrospective investigations of prognosis, recurrence, and tumor biology. All specimens and linked data are coded to preserve donor confidentiality.

In accordance with the National Cancer Institute’s resource sharing policies, JWCI is committed to making its melanoma specimen repository available for collaborative studies with external researchers. Investigators interested in obtaining specimens should email us a brief description of the type and number of specimens needed. If specimens are available, we will ask for a research proposal detailing the proposed use of the specimens and justification for sample size. Proposals are reviewed based on clinical and scientific import, preliminary data, statistical support showing feasibility, and demonstration that use of this unique and limited resource is crucial to the research proposed.

Evidence of funding is not required to submit a proposal but must be obtained before specimens can be released.

In addition, the authorization for use of specimens is not considered final until the applicant signs a specimen use agreement to comply with standard procedures for data analysis, data confidentiality, authorship, and intellectual property sharing. Finally, evidence of IRB approval for the proposal is required before release of samples.

Requests for specimen amounts that would exhaust the repository supply or curtail specimen access by John Wayne Cancer Institute investigators will not be honored. Specimens are provided for research purposes only. Specimens and their products shall not be sold (or distributed free of charge) to third parties.