Jorge Melendez-Zajgla MD MSc ScD

(a) Professional

Anahuac University Medicine (Medico Cirujano) 1992 (summa cum laude)
National Autonomous University (UNAM) Cell Biology M.Sc. 1996
National Autonomous University (UNAM) Biology Ph.D. 2000

(b) Appointments

  • Principal Investigador “F” National Institute of Genomic Medicine (Mex) 2008-present
  • Academic Research Leader National Institute of Genomic Medicine (Mex) 2008-present
  • Deputy Director of Research National Institute of Genomic Medicine (Mex) 2016-present (Medical Research)
  • Deputy Director of Research National Institute of Genomic Medicine (Mex) 2010-2013 (Basic Research)
  • Course Professor (Genomics) National Autonomous University (UNAM) 2016-present
  • Division Head Juarez Hospital 2004-2006
  • Head Professor National Autonomous University (UNAM) 2003-2004
  • Principal Investigador National Cancerology Institute (Mex) 1994-2007
  • Board Member Scientific Steering Committee (ISSC) International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) 2010-present
  • President Veritas Independent Ethics Committee 2010-2013
  • Member National Academy of Medicine 2007-present
  • Member Mexican Academy of Sciences 2006-present
  • Board Member Development Council. Anahuac School of Medicine 2005-2010
  • Board Member Ethics Committee Juarez Hospital 2004-2006
  • Board Member Research Committee National Institute of Genomic Medicine (Mex) 2008-present
  • Board Member Research Committee Juarez Hospital 2004-2006
  • Editorial Board Member Scientific Reports 2016-present
  • Editorial Board Member Clinical and Translational Oncology 2017-present
  • Editorial Board Member Gaceta Medica de Mexico 2012-2017
  • Editorial Board Member Clinical and Translational Investigation 2008-present
  • Editorial Board Member Frontiers in Bioscience. Cancer Genetics 2011-present
  • Editorial Board Member Open Drug Resistance Journal 2009
  • Editorial Board Member Research Journal of Medical Sciences 2006-2010
  • Editorial Board Member Research Journal of Biological Sciences 2006-2010
  • Editorial Board Member International Journal of Molecular Medicine 2006-2010
  • National Researchers System (SNI) Member CONACyT 1993-present (now Level 3)

(c) Description of specific achievements

Dr Jorge Melendez-Zajgla has been dedicating the last 20 years to elucidate new forms to understand and improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, using molecular biology and genomics approaches. Dr. Melendez-Zajgla was a pioneer in the study of the role of apoptosis (Programed Cell Death) on the effects of chemotherapeutic drugs, describing some of the most important cellular signaling cascades involved in this process (Mutation Research 1997, 381(1): 67-75, Cancer Chemother Pharmacol 2001, 48(6):488-492, Cell Signal 2007, 19(6):1212-1220). He also was one of the first researchers that described the role of Inhibitor Apoptosis Proteins (IAPs) on anti-apoptotic signaling cascades that control the response to chemotherapeutic drugs (Biochem Pharmacol 2001, 62(1): 13-19, Cancer Lett 2012, 318(1):61-67.) and their connection to the mitochondria (Oncogene 2007, 26(54):7569-7575), proposing that some of these proteins could be therapeutic targets. He also has been interested in elucidating the role of stem cells in cancer progression, showing that the stem phenotype is plastic and can be regulated by intrinsic cellular factors, such as oncogenic microRNAs (EMBO Rep 2016, 17(5): 648-658.) or even tumoral micro-ambient molecules (Mol Carcinog. doi: 10.1002/mc.22442.). These advances are promising new avenues for diagnostic and therapeutic efforts, as demonstrated by the use of the microRNA signature found in these experiments as a prognostic tool for breast cancer (Patent in process: MX/a/2015/0167) and the possible repurpose of previously FDA-approved drugs to target these cells (Cancer Invest. 2016; 34(3): 155-66.)

Even with the knowledge gained in recent years about the cellular and biochemical regulation pathways in cancer, a deep and complete understanding of the central disease´s initiation and progression determinants were missing. For this reason, national and international efforts were launched, creating multidisciplinary groups such as the International Cancer Genome Consortium, in which Dr. Melendez-Zajgla was Mexico´s leader. With his group participation, this effort gave the first complete description of mutational events in Head and Neck tumors (Science. 2011 Aug 26; 333(6046): 1157-60), B-cell lymphoma (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Mar 6; 109(10): 3879-84.), breast cancer (Nature. 2012 Jun 20;486(7403):405-9.), cervical cancer (Nature. 2014 Feb 20;506(7488): 371-5.) and osteosarcoma (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Dec 23; 111(51): E5564-73.), allowing the creation of new global multi-cancer analyses (Nature. 2013 Jul 11;499(7457): 214-8.) able to establish the root of cancer evolution dynamics.

These efforts led to more than a hundred publications in peer-reviewed and indexed journals which have generated more than 8000 citations. He has mentored more than 30 students at the Postdoctoral, PhD, MSc and undergraduate level, several of which had become independent researchers. For these achievements, Dr. Melendez-Zajgla has been recognized with several awards, including the Aida Weiss Prize (1996), admission to the Mexican Academy of Sciences (2006), the admission as a member of the National Academy of Medicine (2007), the Anahuac National Leadership Award (2008), the Heberto Castillo Award (2012), the Marcos Moshinsky Chair (2014) and recently, the Canifarma prize (2016).

(d) Individual’s research expertise

Cancer phenotype characteristics can be traced to the expression of normal or mutated genes. Recently, thanks to the ENCODE project, the number of DNA sequences with a function have expanded by several thousand. It is now important to assess the relevance of this non-coding “genes” in cancer initiation and progression. Dr. Melendez-Zajgla expertise in functional genomics, cell culture and in vivo cancer models (including mice, chicken and zebrafish) will help to contribute to this aim. He is now pursuing low and high-throughput gene screening analyses to assess the role of these non-coding “genes” in the cancer phenotypic hallmarks, including stemness and to identify key druggable genes that could be important response modifiers to chemotherapeutic and targeted drugs.

Following the success of the ICGC initiative, several new projects aimed to describe the genomic landscapes of lung, pancreatic, sarcomas and child tumors in Mexico are now underway under the direction of Dr. Melendez-Zajgla. Taking advantage of these advances and his expertise in computational genomics, molecular biology techniques and medical experience, Dr. Melendez-Zajgla is now creating new genomic assays and analytic computational frameworks to translate these tools to the clinic, including low to medium throughput low-cost tests, companion genetic tests and new prognostic tools.

(e) Synergistic Activities

1. Member of the thematic interdisciplinary Stem Cell network (CONACyT)
2. Member of the Scientific Steering Committee (ISSC), International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC)
3. Leader of the Cancer Genome Inititative. Chapter Mexico
4. Member of the Pediatric Cancer Network (UNAM, Aqui Nadie se Rinde Association) and its accompanying tumor board.
5. Multiple national and international collaborations, including Frontiers in Science (CONACyT 2016) with LANGEBIO, Pediatric Sarcomas Group (with the Stanford University), Broad Institute, Aztra-Zeneca, etc.

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