Big Ideas

Roger Lo, M.D., Ph.D.

May 22, 2012

Dr. Roger Lo of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center is a 2009 V Scholar. He has uncovered how an advanced form of melanoma gets around an inhibitor called Zelboraf, which targets the mutated BRAF gene. Lo and his colleagues discovered that in some patients, the mutated BRAF gene driving the cancer became amplified as the cancer developed resistance to an inhibitor. The findings may lead to alternative ways of preventing or treating resistant melanomas.

“Understanding and solving the problem of how cancer gets around targeted drugs is arguably one of the highest priorities in modern-day cancer medicine,” said Lo. “For the first time, we were able to see in actual patient tissue samples how the cancer gets around this drug by altering the target.”

Going forward, Lo and his team will seek to find out what is happening molecularly in every patient that relapses after therapy so innovative drug strategies can be developed to help them. “If we know what happens in every relapse, we can have a plan in place that will help us avoid or overcome resistance,” he said.