For Researchers: Precision Medicine Translational Laboratory at Rutgers Cancer Institute

The main goals of the Precision Medicine Translational Laboratory include:

  • Engineering innovative genomic alterations for investigation in cells and animals
  • Identifying and characterizing genomic alterations for their impact on cellular functions
  • Evaluating the sensitivity of genomically targeted drugs to related genomic alterations
  • Understanding how specific genomic alterations affect cellular signaling pathways
  • Standardizing approaches and techniques to create genomically altered cell and animal models

DNAThe translational laboratory has maximized efforts to achieve these goals by ensuring proper assignment of personnel, resources, and methodologies. This includes recruiting personnel with appropriate expertise in use of various biochemical and genomic procedures, such as cloning systems, reagents, small interfering RNA screens to study the effects of silencing genes, xenografts (including those from patient-derived tissue), organoid development, and other assays. Information gained from this work will serve to enhance the clinical usefulness of findings from genomic sequencing (for example, next-generation sequencing or comprehensive genomic profiling), determine therapeutic approaches based on genomic findings, aid in the development of clinical trials and related options, and provide supportive rationale for exploring new therapies.

Several ongoing projects include the identification of newly discovered gene rearrangements in rare and refractory (unresponsive or resistant to therapy) tumors from patients evaluated at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Several gene rearrangements have been engineered and their protein products have been expressed in both normal cells and cancer cells to understand the effects of each rearrangement on cell function and targeted drug effectiveness. Also, genes that code for receptor tyrosine kinases, a family of receptors on the surface of cells, may rearrange to form multiple distinct gene fusion partners, as evidenced in an article by Kulkarni, et al, on a translational study involving a patient who developed a BRAF fusion following treatment with a BRAF inhibitor1.  Data suggest that some fusions may play a role in mechanisms of drug resistance. Therefore, strategies for understanding mechanisms of resistance and determining how to therapeutically target specific gene fusion partners are also being explored. 

In collaboration with clinical investigators of the Precision Medicine team at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the laboratory is performing pre-clinical drug testing to generate data to justify use of the drugs in clinical trials, while collaborating with pharmaceuticals for potential clinical trials. For example, the translational laboratory is providing support to a precision medicine-based clinical trial for patients with early-stage, triple-negative breast cancer. This includes the generation of animal models containing patient-derived tumor tissue to evaluate the sensitivity of genomically targeted drugs.

Laboratory Staff

Kim M. Hirshfield, MD, PhD 

Sonia C. Dolfi, PhD
Research Associate 

Aparna Kareddula, PhD

Whitney Petrosky, BS

Bhavna Paratala, BS
Graduate Student

Stephanie Lin
Undergraduate Student

Lab telephone number: 732-235-7949


  1. Kulkarni A HK, Chen S, Pine SR, Jeyamohan C, Sokol L, Ali SM, White E, Rodriguez-Rodriguez L, Mehnert JM, Ganesan S. BRAF fusion as a novel mechanism of acquired resistance to vemurafenib in BRAF V600E mutant melanoma.(submitted work).


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