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Jean-Pierre Issa, MD

Director, Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology
Professor, Medicine

Jean-Pierre Issa
For Patients
Contact Information

Contact Information


About Me

Clinical Interests

  • Leukemias

Research Interests

  • Epigenomics and genomics in normal, aging and cancer cells (DNA methylation and histone modifications; genome wide genetic changes)
  • Basic mechanisms in epigenetics
  • Tumor-suppressor genes
  • Translational studies in cancer
  • Pre-clinical and clinical research in epigenetic therapy

My laboratory is involved in both basic and translational research in the field of molecular epigenetics, which refers to stable gene expression states such as X-inactivation, imprinting etc. Specifically, we are interested in epigenetic mechanisms - a DNA modification termed DNA methylation that is commonly abnormal in aging tissues and in various malignancies; and histone modifications involved in determining gene expression states.

Current projects include:

  • Large scale mapping of epigenomics patterns in normal, aging and cancer cells
  • Investigating the causes of aberrant methylation in cancer, focusing on aging; genetic changes; a particular hypermethylator phenotype we described called CpG Island methylator phenotype; environmental exposures and familial predisposition
  • Basic mechanisms governing the establishment of DNA methylation in normal and cancer cells
  • Studying the causes and consequences of DNA methylation changes in normal aging tissues. Does reducing methylation prevent tumor formation and prolong lifespan?
  • Clinical implications of methylation profiling in cancer. Can we identify subgroups with particular characteristics, prognosis, etc.?
  • Clinical trials of drugs that affect histone modifications and DNA methylation are ongoing. Can we predict who will respond to the drugs? Can we make the therapy better? Does it work the way it is supposed to?
  • Screens for drugs that affect epigenetics, alone or in synergy with current FDA approved molecules.
Education, Training & Credentials

Educational Background

  • Fellowship, Medical Oncology, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, 1994
  • Residency, Internal Medicine, The Good Samaritan Hospital, Baltimore, MD, 1990
  • MD, The American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon, 1987
  • BS, The American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon, 1983


  • Internal Medicine
  • Medical Oncology

Honors & Awards

  • Rosenthal Award, American Association for Cancer Research, 2011
  • Faculty Achievement Award in Basic Research, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 2007
  • American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professorship, 2007
  • Frei Award in Translational Research from the Division of Cancer Medicine, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 2006
  • Election to American Society of Clinical Investigation, 2003
  • Sidney Kimmel Foundation Scholar Award, 1997

PubMed Publications

View PubMed Publications