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12 June 2013

World Expert in the Genomics of Lung Cancer Joins the IMPPC


In October 2012, the Carlos III Health Institute of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation awarded Dr. Jun Yokota a prestigious ISIS grant to start his research in the Institute of Predictive and Personalized Medicine of Cancer (IMPPC).

Dr. Yokota is a world expert in the genomics and genetics of lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. He has identified many of the somatic mutations that occur during multistep human lung carcinogenesis. Some of the mutations occur commonly in patients of any ethnic origins and others occur preferentially in patients of Asian countries. He has also shown genetic variations in the susceptibility to this disease, not only among individuals, but also among populations from different geographic regions. In simple terms, this implies that people from different areas have different probabilities of developing lung cancer and in many cases have a tendency to develop different types of the disease. This is very important for prediction and prevention and also for when doctors decide which treatment will work best for a patient who already has lung cancer. Dr. Yokota's group has been also investigating which parts of cancer mechanisms can be targeted for the development of new therapies.

From November 2010 to March 2013, Dr. Yokota has been the chief of the Division of Multistep Carcinogenesis at the National Cancer Center Research Institute in Tokyo, Japan, where he has held many senior positions since 1987. Dr. Yokota has also practiced as a medical oncologist for many years; therefore he has brought a physician's viewpoint to modern molecular science in order to focus on patient-oriented cancer research. He fully joined to the IMPPC in May 2013.

At the IMPPC, the Yokota’s group will have three main focuses. Firstly, they will use state-of-the art genomic sequencing techniques to identify targets for new therapies for small cell lung cancer (SCLC), the most aggressive type of lung cancer caused by cigarette smoking. Secondly, they will also develop methods to evaluate the risk of developing the disease for individual people. These are vital to be able to take preventive measures and to know what treatments to give if it appeared. The third area will be the identification of SCLC stem cells in order to target them for therapy and the development of novel target therapy for SCLC patients based on the accumulated genetic alterations in SCLC cells.

His work on the differences in susceptibility to lung cancer and also in molecular pathways of lung carcinogenesis among people from different geographical regions, probably due to different ethnic origins, mean that Dr. Yokota has collaborated with many scientists worldwide. In Spain, he has been working closely with Dr. Manuel Perucho (Director, IMPPC) and Dr. Montserrat Sanchez-Cespedes (Genes and Cancer Group Leader, IDIBELL). Therefore, Dr. Yokota will be expanding further collaborations both in Spain and in Europe, since he is now based at the IMPPC. He will also continue tight collaborations with scientists in Japan and the U.S. for the development of novel ways for prevention and therapy of lung cancer in a global viewpoint.

Dr Yokota in his laboratory at the IMPPC

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