Department of Molecular Diagnostics and Experimental Therapeutics

City of Hope’s Department of Molecular Diagnostics and Experimental Therapeutics (MDET) pursues translational and clinical research advancing precision-medicine approaches for diagnosing and fighting cancer. Ultimately, we aim to devise more personalized — and more successful — strategies for cancer care. Toward this goal, we have a strong emphasis on driving technologies from the lab to the clinic, where patients can benefit by receiving leading-edge, timely, affordable and effective cancer care.
Established in 2019, the department is led by Founding Chair and Professor Ajay Goel, Ph.D., Our investigations engage a multidisciplinary team, including molecular biologists, bioinformaticians, gastroenterologists, surgeons, medical oncologists and pathologists.
One major focus of our research is applying knowledge about the genetic and epigenetic signatures of cancer. These studies may help customize care across multiple stages of disease.
  • Diagnosis: creating non-invasive tests for early detection — and an early interception — of cancer, when the cancer is in early stages and potentially curable (in some instances) and can be treated more effectively with currently available therapeutic regimens
  • Prognosis: profiling patients and their disease on a molecular level to identify the likelihood of successful treatment, perform risk stratification and estimate their survival outcomes
  • Prediction for treatment response: profiling each patient and predicting what therapies are most likely to succeed, based upon each patient’s own genetic background — helping to develop and guide individualized and personalized therapies
  • Treatment: targeting cancer’s weak spots with next-generation treatments using a variety of approaches including small molecule inhibitors, antibody-based therapies and immunotherapies (including immune checkpoint inhibitors, and CAR-T and NK cell therapies)
Additional areas of interest include health disparities in cancer among different racial and ethnic populations, inherited predisposition for cancer, and the potential of complementary and alternative integrative approaches based upon diet-based, naturally occurring medicines for cancer prevention and treatment.
Early detection is a key theme in many of our projects under development:
  • A blood test for colon cancer, with the potential to spare people from undergoing unnecessary and invasive colonoscopies, and offer a test that is non-invasive and inexpensive and can offer increased compliance and participation in individuals of all age groups
  • A blood test for pancreatic cancer — an aggressive, difficult-to-treat disease
  • A blood test for ovarian cancer, for which there are currently no early-detection strategies
At present, our studies largely focus on gastrointestinal cancerscolorectal, pancreatic, stomach (gastric), esophageal and liver cancers — but we do have broader interests and expect to expand further in other types of solid cancers and hematological malignancies in the near future.
Grants and philanthropy are crucial to accelerating our progress. In addition to multiple projects funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), we receive support from Stupid Strong Foundation, Ludwig Cancer Research/Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, American Gastroenterological Association, Robert and Sally Funderburg Research Foundation and other grateful individual donors.