Translational Molecular Medicine Research

Translational Molecular Medicine is focused on translational application of transcriptomic, genomic, and epigenomic cancer biomarkers using Next Generation Sequencing in tissue and body fluids. Also, we focus on DNA Damage Response (CDDR) as related to Drug Resistance and Immune Responses. 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

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 are devoted to clinical translational research, collaborating with physicians and other scientists to improve cancer patient healthcare and clinical outcomes. Our recent 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; cfDNA, cfmiRNA) and circulating tumor cells (CTC) to aid in the management of cancer patients, early diagnosis, and evaluate modern therapeutics. In addition, we aim to fully understand ubiquitin and ubiquitins as they relate to tumor regulatory pathways and translational responses to therapy resistance.

Research Topics

We are highly focused on developing quantitative translational regulators of proteins role in solid tumors. Discoveries made in molecular studies and proteomics progression 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 Nano String technology – Saint John’s Cancer Institute
  • We are assessing for molecular blood biopsies in blood and urine that include cell-free nucleic acids (cfNAs) (DNA, miRNA) and CTCs and exosomes. We assess/determine their clinical utility especially in diagnosis and prognosis during follow up of treatment.
  • We assess cfNA and exosomes in patients who receive immune checkpoint inhibitor therapies.
  • We identify various forms of epigenetic changes (methylation and histone) as related to metastasis and therapy resistance.
  • Our dept. assesses DNA Damage Resistance (DDR) solid tumors.
  • We examine primary and extracranial brain tumor cFNA and molecular biology for progression-related genes.
  • Our Dept has focused on proteomics as related to activity during tumor progression and DDR, specifically regulatory mechanisms of specific ubiquilin and ubiquitins.
  • 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. His research team has published over 500 publications in scientific journals. We collaborate with academic and industry partners to fulfill our translational 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 foundation and DOD in the past. Recent support in the last 8 years has been provided by the Adeleson Medical Research Foundation (AMRF) which includes projects related to DDR, Molecular Immunology, and Brain Metastasis as well as Epigenetic Sequence Platform Core, as Dr. Hoon is a senior member of the program. Additional major grant support include NCI Melanoma SPORE from the University of Penn, S. Riley Early Detection Pancreas Cancer, MiNk Therapeutics, Merck, BioDyne Inc., and the NIH NCI Preventative ROI Clinical Trial grant with the City of Hope, Duarte, CA.

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

  1. The identification of cfNA and exosomes in blood and urine for diagnosis and prognosis of patients during follow-up.
  2. The understanding of epigenetic mechanisms that regulate regional and distant(brain, visceral organ) metastasis.
  3. Assessment of ubiquitin and ubiquilin protein regulatory 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 “molecular fluid” involving various cfNA 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 responses 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

  • The 4th Annual Advances in Immuno Oncology USA Congress: October 3-4, 2022 (San Diego, CA) Speaker: Spatial Biology And The Brain Tumour Metastasis Micro-environment.
    (More Info:
  • EMBO Workshop: The DNA Damage Response, Immunity, and Aging: October 10 – 13, 2022 (Singapore) – Speaker: Cisplatin-induced DNA damage triggers MRE11a proteasomal degradation mediated by UBQLN4 in solid tumors
    (More Info:
  • The 19th Ataxia-Telangiectasia Workshop March 2 – 5, 2023 (ATW2023) (Kyoto, Japan) – Speaker: UBQLN4 Triggers MRE11a and STING Proteasomal Degradation During Platinum-induced DNA Damage Response in Solid Tumors
    (More Info:
  • Molecular Medicine Tri-Con (30th Annual): March 6 – 8, 2023 (San Diego, CA) – Chairman and Speaker: Plasma cfmiR Utility in Assessing Multiple Solid Tumor Detection and Progression.
    (More Info:
  • American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting: April 2023 (Orlando, Florida) Phase 1 study of allogeneic invariant natural killer T cells (iNKTs), agenT-797, alone or in combination with pembrolizumab or nivolumab in patients with advanced solid tumors.
    (More Info:
  • 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