James Turkson, PhD (Chair of Cytokines 2022 in Hawaii)
Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology
Associate Director of Strategic Partnerships
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA USA
Dr. James Turkson joined Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, in July 2019 as a Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology, and he currently also holds the position of Associate Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Cedars-Sinai Cancer Center. He earned his honors BS degree in Biochemistry with Chemistry at the University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana, and PhD in Pharmacology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and he completed postdoctoral fellowship training in Molecular Oncology/Drug Discovery at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Tampa, FL in 2000. Dr. Turkson accepted his first faculty position as an Assistant Professor in Molecular Oncology/Drug Discovery at the Moffitt Cancer Center from 2000-2005, and then joined the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences in the new College of Medicine at the University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, as an Associate Professor from 2005-2011. He was subsequently recruited as a Full Professor with tenure to the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, an NCI-designated Cancer Center in Honolulu, Hawaii from 2011-2019, where he held various leadership positions as the Cancer Biology Program Director, Director of the Natural Products Program, Director of Technology Development, Chief Academic Lead, and Basic Science Senior Leader. An internationally recognized leader in STAT signaling and cancer, Dr. Turkson played a leading role in establishing the causal relationship between aberrantly-active STAT3 and oncogenesis. He is credited for the early validation of STAT3 as a novel anticancer target, and he led the research to discover the first small-molecule/peptide inhibitors of STAT3 in the early 2000’s, and thereby establishing the proof-of-concept for STAT3 inhibitors as potential anticancer agents. The Turkson laboratory maintains a vibrant research program on STAT3 inhibitor discovery and development, with a strong team of medicinal chemists, cancer cell biologists, structural biologists, computational chemists, and experts in drug discovery research. Short term focus of his current laboratory is on the advanced STAT3 inhibitor lead optimization and the selection of clinical candidate(s) for advancement into clinical trials. In the longer term, the program continues to intensify medicinal chemistry efforts on other lead compounds. Other robust research programs in the lab focus on the optimization of natural product inhibitors of STAT3 as potential new treatments for breast and brain tumors, and on the application of small molecules and natural products as chemical probes to interrogate cancer pathways for novel mechanistic insights. He is currently also leading all drug discovery/development efforts at Cedars-Sinai Cancer Center.