Translational Molecular Medicine Research

Translational Molecular Medicine is the development and translational application of transcriptomic, genomic, and epigenomic cancer biomarkers using NGS in tissue and body fluids. Also, we focus on DNA Damage Response (CDDR) as related to Drug Resistance and Immune Response. Our team translates promising therapeutics from bench to bedside treatment for solid tumors, particularly melanoma, breast cancer, GU cancer, GI tract cancers and brain tumors.

Translational Molecular Medicine - Bio-Markers - Saint John's Cancer Institute Genetic Sequencing -Saint Johns Cancer Institute HTG Molecular Saint Johns Cancer Institute

Our Mission and Vision

Translational Molecular Medicine - Identifying genomic and epigenomic molecular biomarkers
Scientists identifying cancer molecular biomarkers – Saint John’s Cancer Institute

The mission of the Translational Molecular Medicine Research department is the development of new approaches for the molecular diagnosis of metastasis with a strong emphasis on the identification of molecular biomarkers (genomic, epigenomic, transcriptomic) in blood , urine and tissue that can be used in early-diagnosis, prognosis, drug resistance, and theragnostic targets. Our mission and goal is devoted to clinical translational research, collaborating with physicians and other scientists to improve cancer patient healthcare and clinical outcomes. Our other main focus involves understanding DDR , senescent and molecular immune responses.

Our vision is the employment of blood molecular biomarkers such as cell-free nucleic acid (cfNA; DNA, miRNA) and circulating tumor cells (CTC) to aid in the management of cancer patients and elevate modern therapeutics. In addition, we aim to fully understand ubiquitin and ubiquitin as they relate to tumor regulatory pathways and translational responses to therapy resistance.

Research Topics

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.

Main Projects

Translational Molecular Research using nanoString
Translational Molecular Research using nanoString technology – Saint John’s Cancer Institute
  • We are assessing for molecular blood biopsies in blood and urine that include cell-free nucleic acids (cfNAs) (ctDNA, miRNA, CTCs and exosomes). We assess/determine their clinical utility especially in diagnosis and prognosis during treatment.
  • We assess CFNA in patients who receive immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy.
  • We identify various forms of epigenetic changes (methylation and histone) as related to metastasis and therapy resistance.
  • The Department also assesses DNA damage resistance (DDR) microenvironment-related genes in response to drug resistance.
  • We examine primary and extracranial brain tumor molecular biology for progression-related genes.
  • We examine regulatory mechanisms of specific ubiquitin and ubiquitin.
  • Our studies also focus on molecular immune responses during treatment using our new approaches of spatial biology and single cell sequencing.

Partnership & Collaboration

academic-and-industry-collborations-saint-johns-cancer-institute 2021Our Translational Molecular Medicine Department was initiated at the Saint John’s Cancer Institute in 1991 under Dr. Dave SB Hoon. Dr. Hoon’s research team has published over 400 publications in indexed scientific journals. We collaborate with academic and industry partners to fulfill our research goals. Our academic partners help build programs, sharing knowledge and resources for the benefit of all partners, while our industry partners help us develop products and provide resources not available at the institute. The department has been supported by NIH/NCI grants for melanoma translational studies since 1992 while support for breast cancer has been provided by FFANY, ABC, Gonda, California Breast Cancer Program, DOD, and Komen foundations. Studies in prostate cancer have been supported by ABC and DOD in the past. Recent support in the last 8 years has been provided by the Adeleson Medical Research Foundation (AMRF) which includes DDR, Molecular Immunology, and Brain Metastasis as well as Epigenetic Sequence Platform Core, as Dr. Hoon is a member of the program. Additional major grant support include NCI Melanoma SPORE from the University of Penn, S. Riley Early Detection Pancreas Cancer, and the NIH NCI Preventative mushroom grant via City of Hope through support in various pharmaceuticals in translational studies and clinical trials.

Currently, the members of the department are organized in different sections of research, these include:

  1. The identification of CTCs and CFNA in blood and urine for diagnosis and prognosis of patients during follow-up.
  2. The understanding of different epigenetic mechanisms that regulate regional and distant(brain, visceral organ) metastasis.
  3. Assessment of ubiquitin and ubiquilin pathways that promote tumor progression and treatment resistance.
  4. Identification of mechanisms of primary brain and brain metastasis progression and tumor microenvironment interactions.
SJCI spirit award
Irene Ramos receives SJCI Mission Spirit Award in the 3rd Quarter of 2022.

Postdoctoral Lab-Based Translational Molecular Medicine Fellowship

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

Learn more about the Molecular Oncology Fellowship

News and Events

2022-2023 Conferences and Invited Speakers:

Tri-Con San Diego - March 6-8 2023

  • Molecular Medicine Tri-Con (29th Annual): February 21 – 23, 2022 (San Diego, CA) – Over the past 28 years, the Tri-Conference has served as the leading international meeting place for the precision medicine community. As the world faces the challenges of the pandemic recovery, Cambridge Healthtech Institute once again takes the leadership role of bringing together the life science community at the TRI-CON 2022. Join thousands of international thought leaders —in-person and/or virtually— to discuss the latest research and technologies in precision medicine and precision health; innovation in point-of-care and molecular diagnostics and market access strategies; advanced diagnostics for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases; precision oncology diagnostics and therapeutics; liquid biopsy and minimal residual disease testing; biomarkers and companion diagnostics; and new technologies for spatial multi-omic analysis.
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  • NEXTGEN OMICS US 2022: March 29 – 30 , 2022 (Boston, USA) – About: Bringing together leading omics experts from around the world and comprised of three outstanding programs, delegates can expect to benefit from critical discussions in the future of Next Generation Sequencing, Multi-omic Single Cell Analysis (including Spatial Transcriptomics) and Genome editing in Drug Discovery and Therapeutic Development. Following this is a dedicated Digital Day delivered through our online event platform.
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  • EMBO Workshop: The DNA Damage Response, Immunity, and Aging: October 10 –13, 2022 (Singapore) – DNA damage and inflammation are two major contributing factors of aging that are intimately connected. Indeed, recent ground-breaking studies revealed how DDR can mobilize the immune system by inducing the expression of pro-inflammatory factors as well as ligands for immune receptors. The activation of immune response is induced by different DDR components including DNA damage sensors, transducer kinases, and effectors. For instance, the release of DNA fragments in the cytosol activates the cGAS-STING pathway, the expression of interferon genes, and the inflammatory response. Conversely, chronic inflammation has recently emerged as an important mutagenic and cancer-promoting process by generating reactive oxygen and nitrogen reactive species. These discoveries have profound implications not only in aging mechanisms but also in cancer therapy and in strategies to prevent age-related diseases. Thus, linking DNA damage response and immunity in the aging process is a novel concept with rapid intellectual advances that deserve intensive interaction between researchers of different fields.
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  • Molecular Medicine Tri-Con (30th Annual): March 6-8 , 2023 (San Diego, CA) – For almost 3 decades, the Molecular & Precision Med TRI-CON has served as the leading international meeting place for the diagnostics and precision medicine community. As we celebrate the 30th Anniversary and look forward to in-person networking, Cambridge Healthtech Institute once again takes the leadership role of bringing together the life science community at the TRI-CON 2023. Join thousands of international thought leaders to discuss the latest research, technologies, innovation, and business models in implementing precision medicine, biomarkers and companion diagnostics, genomic medicine, and precision health; innovation and market access strategies for at-home diagnostics, point-of-care testing and molecular diagnostics for infectious diseases; liquid biopsy and advanced diagnostics for precision oncology, including Multi-Cancer Early Detection and Minimal Residual Disease testing; and emerging technologies for spatial biology and single-cell multi-omics. The new track on Digital Medicine reflects the future of precision medicine and adds coverage of artificial intelligence, digital diagnostics and digital biomarkers, digital pathology, sensors, and wearables. Join us in sunny San Diego for the in-person networking you’ve come to expect from the TRI-CON and special 30th Anniversary keynotes. Don’t miss a minute of the cutting-edge 10-track scientific program with convenient on-demand viewing.
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  • 2023 Events and Announcements:

    • JANUARY 2023: Following an independent review and scoring, we are pleased to announce that the following investigators will be awarded $75,000 for their research projects following the submission of a proposal from a grant from the Fashion Footwear Association of New York (FFANY). :
      Dr. Matias Bustos, Overactivated DNA damage repair mechanism that promotes resistance to approved therapies in TNBC patients

Positions Available

The Department is looking for postdoctoral fellows who have experience in translational molecular CTC and cfNA research. Also postdoctoral fellows experience in Cancer Epigenetics as well as metastasis regulatory mechanisms.

  • There are no current positions that are open at this time.


Dave Hoon, M.Sc., Ph.D., Program Director 

Irene Ramos, MSc, Translational Molecular Medicine Department Laboratory Manager


Dr. Dave Hoon has published more than 400 peer-reviewed and co-authored articles. See articles at

Translational Research - Publications - NIH Articles - Dr. David Hoon