Translational Molecular Medicine Research

Translational Molecular Medicine is the development and translational application of transcriptomic, genomic, and epigenomic biomarkers as diagnostic, prognostic and predictive tools for diseases. Our team translates promising therapeutics from bench to bedside treatment for solid tumors, particularly melanoma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and gastrointestinal tract cancers.

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 identify genomic and epigenomic 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) that can be used in early-diagnosis, prognosis, drug resistance, and theranostic 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 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 ubiquilin 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 looking for molecular blood biopsies in blood 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 patients who receive immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy.
  • We assess various forms of epigenetic changes (methylation and histone) as related to metastasis and therapy resistance.
  • The Molecular Research Department also assess DNA damage resistance related genes in response to drug resistance.
  • We examine primary and extracranial brain tumor molecular biology.
  • We assess regulatory mechanisms of specific ubiquitin and ubiquilin.

Partnership & Collaboration

academic-and-industry-collborations-saint-johns-cancer-institute 2021
Academic and Industry Collaborators of Saint John’s Cancer Institute

Our 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 375 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 has been provided by the Adeleson Medical Research Foundation (AMRF) which include Brain Metastasis and 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.

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.
Saint John's Cancer Institute Translational Molecular Medicine Fellowship
Saint John’s Cancer Institute Translational Molecular Medicine Fellowship

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 the Molecular Oncology Fellowship

News and Events

2021 Conferences and Invited Speakers:

Pharma Week Dr Dave Hoon - Keynote Speaker

  • 5th Advances in Circulating Tumor Cells (ACTC) Sept 22-25 in Kalamata, Greece
    Clinical Utility of Cell-Free MicroRNA Signatures in Melanoma and GBM Patients Plasma
  • Pharma Week Virtual Conference and Expo, Presented by the Cambridge HealthTech Institute (June 15-17)
    A virtually conference and expo (more info)
    Keynote Speaker:
    Dr. Dave Hoon, Director, Center of Translational Molecular Medicine and Professor of Genomic Sequencing Center

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 375 peer-reviewed and co-authored articles.
See articles at

  1. Integrated analysis of plasma and single immune cells uncovers metabolic changes in individuals with COVID-19. Nature Biotechnology, Sept 2021.
  2. Vitamin D deficiency exacerbates UV/endorphin and opioid addiction. Science Advances; ;7(24):eabe4577, June 2021.
  3. EpiMap: Fine-tuning integrative epigenomics maps to understand complex human regulatory genomic circuitry. Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy; 6(1):179, May 2021.
  4. Regulation of MRE11A by UBQLN4 leads to cisplatin resistance in patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. Molecular Oncology; 15(4):1069-1087, Apr 2021.
  5. A Pilot Study Comparing the Efficacy of Lactate Dehydrogenase Levels Versus Circulating Cell-Free microRNAs in Monitoring Responses to Checkpoint Inhibitor Immunotherapy in Metastatic Melanoma Patients. Cancers (Basel); 12(11):3361, Nov 2020.
  6. Integrated Assessment of Circulating Cell-Free MicroRNA Signatures in Plasma of Patients with Melanoma Brain Metastasis. Cancers (Basel); 12(6):1692, June 2020.
  7. Enhanced B7-H4 expression in gliomas with low PD-L1 expression identifies super-cold tumors. Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer; ;8:e000154, May 2020.
  8. Downregulation of the Ubiquitin-E3 Ligase RNF123 Promotes Upregulation of the NF-κB1 Target SerpinE1 in Aggressive Glioblastoma Tumors. Cancers (Basel); 12(5):1081, Apr 2020.
  9. Epigenetic reprogramming at estrogen-receptor binding sites alters 3D chromatin landscape in endocrine-resistant breast cancer. Nature Communications; 11(1):320, Jan 2020.
  10. UBQLN4 Represses Homologous Recombination and Is Overexpressed in Aggressive Tumors.
  11. Multiplex Gene Profiling of Cell-Free DNA in Patients With Metastatic Melanoma for Monitoring Disease. JCO Precision Oncology; 2. May 2018.
  12. The Immune Landscape of Cancer. Immunity; 48(4):812-830.e14. Apr 2018.
Translational Research - Publications - NIH Articles - Dr. David Hoon