In This Section      

Research Highlights

The work by Center investigators in cancer genetics and epigenetics is recognized as the classic model for deciphering the mechanisms of cancer initiation and progression. A survey by Thomson Scientific revealed our researchers’ discoveries as the most frequently cited, dubbing our Center a “cancer research powerhouse.” 

The pioneering research that defined cancer as a genetic disease was done at our center.  These discoveries led to the first genetic tests for a hereditary cancer and a screening stool test for colon cancer.  Our investigators were the first to map a cancer genome, deciphering the genetic blueprints for colon, breast, pancreatic, and brain cancers.  Of the 75 cancers for which all genes have been sequenced, 68 have been done at the Kimmel Cancer Center. These discoveries have paved the way for personalized therapies with our investigators undertaking the first use of personalized genome scanning to reveal the gene mutation that caused a person’s inherited from of pancreatic cancer.

Working to understand the effects of methylation patterns on genes, the hallmark of epigenetic alterations, our scientists have used this molecular trail of evidence to develop broad-based cancer screening tests, monitor patients for cancer progression and recurrence, and to determine surgical margins by revealing cancer cells invisible to the human eye.  Research linking DNA methylation to the leukemia precursor myelodysplastic syndrome led to the first FDA approval of a demethylating agent and earned the team recognition from the NCI for the most outstanding research in the SPORE program.

Kimmel Cancer Center researchers were among the first to develop therapeutic cancer vaccines. The Center is home to a GMP facility that allows scientists to produce the vaccines for clinical trials. Among the most successful of the vaccines is a pancreas cancer vaccine that turns on the immune system and leads immune cells, typically blind to cancer, to attack cancer cells in the pancreas and throughout the body was developed here.  In recent clinical studies, a small number of patients were vaccinated two weeks prior to surgery, jumpstarting their immune systems and then allowing, for the first time, doctors to see and begin to understand exactly what the immune systems does in the pancreas. Other vaccines for cervical cancer, prostate cancer, and leukemia also were developed here.

Kimmel Cancer Center researchers were among the first to perform bone marrow transplants to treat blood and immune-forming cancers. Now, they have expanded upon this early expertise becoming the first to perform haploid (half)-identical transplants, increasing the number of patients who can take advantage of the curative therapy.  Breakthroughs managing graft vs. host disease have made transplants possible for patients who do not have identical donor matches.
Unique collaborations among leaders in science and medicine as well as engineering, physics, and other disciplines have allowed our Center investigators to tackle problems of great scope and obtain solutions that would not otherwise be possible.  

Read more about our Research and Clinical Trials.

The mission of the Kimmel Cancer Center is to go beyond the cutting edge in science and medicine to perform the most advanced research and translate the discoveries into the very best cancer therapies. The latest, plus some—is how Kimmel Cancer Center Director William Nelson describes this objective, pointing to state-of-the-art as just the starting point of what we offer.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA):

The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center earned $3.1 million, one of the largest amounts awarded, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) share of stimulus funding.  The awards represent two of just 35 NIH administrative supplement grants made across the country with funding received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). It is supporting recruitment of talented new faculty to the Kimmel Cancer Center.  More information on Johns Hopkins ARRA grants.