The Molecular Oncology is a newly established department with the major goals to enhance the understanding of the molecular basis of cancer, to act as a catalyst for translational cancer research, and to promote the movement of that knowledge into the prevention and management cancer. The Department is composed of 5 different sections, which study various types of neoplasms, including breast and thyroid cancers. Our main objectives are to participate in understanding the molecular and cellular basis of cancer onset and spread, to identify novel and potent anti-cancer agents, and to search for genetic and epigenetic biomarkers relevant for diagnostic and prognostic purposes.


Research Activities 

  • We have shown that obesity is a major risk factor for breast cancer among Saudi females.
  • We have identified BRCA1 methylation-related molecular changes, which further confirmed the importance of this epigenetic change as early detection molecular biomarker for breast cancer.
  • IL-6 plays a major role in the cross-talk between breast cancer cells and their microenvironment.
  • The RNA binding protein AUF1 is a major cancer promoting factor, and potential prognostic/predictive marker for different types of cancer.
    • Determination of age-specific gene expression signatures for breast tumors: Towards understanding the genetic behind early onset breast cancer.
    • Curcumin can neutralize active breast stromal fibroblasts through the induction of senescence: Possibility to target tumor microenvironment for better treatment.
    • Determination of the prevalence of PIK3CA mutations and the SNPrs17849079 in Saudi breast cancer patients: Possible use as biomarker.
    • Demonstrate that TERT promoter mutations are relatively common in thyroid cancer among middle eastern population.



  • Breast Cancer Research

Breast Cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths in women. Therefore, it is imperative to establish a thorough research program on this disease to elucidate its genetic and environmental causes, which are important for cancer prevention and treatment.  The major aim of this section is to perform molecular profiling of breast cancer in Saudi population to uncover the heterogeneity of this disease and to offer novel insights into tumorigenesis and therapy management. We are also investigating the possible use of circulating methylated DNA and miRNAs as potential biomarkers for diagnosis and prognosis.

  • Cancer Biology and Experimental Therapeutics

Cancer remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The mission of the Cancer Biology & Experimental Therapeutics (CB&ET) section is to provide outstanding research contributions in the fundamental mechanisms of carcinogenesis and also in discovering natural non-toxic molecules that can be used for prevention and/or treatment of cancer. Therefore, research activities in this section focus on aging, obesity, breast carcinoma-stroma cross-talk and experimental therapeutics. Specific molecules currently under investigation include p16, CHK2, ATR, AUF1, and natural nontoxic molecules with anti-cancer properties such as eugenol, caffeine and curcumin analogues. 

  • Cancer Epigenetics

Epigenetics is an exciting and evolving area of research that offers a valuable opportunity to identify cancer-specific changes, which can enable early detection and also be used in the clinic to improve diagnosis and prognosis of treated patients. Recent findings indicate epigenetic modifications as key factors in breast carcinogenesis. The main aims of this section are to determine the possible use of promoter methylation of different breast cancer-related genes in white blood cells as early detection biomarkers, in addition to the identification of potential correctors of these changes.

  • Molecular Endocrinology

The Molecular Endocrinology section focuses on two main areas. The first is translational research on endocrine neoplasms, exploring the role of certain oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes in the pathogenesis of endocrine cancer and studying genetic mechanism of endocrine tumors.  We are also interested in the clinical aspects of molecular findings in these tumors relating the phenotypes with genotypes. Our aim is to define the molecular basis of the clinical variations that these tumors show in their presentations, response to therapy and prognosis.

The second aspect of our work is to study genetic abnormalities in several hereditary endocrine diseases such as hormone resistance syndromes, congenital hypothyroidism, disorders of six developments, genetic endocrine hypertension and others.

  • Translational Cancer Research

In the era of personalized and targeted therapies Translational Cancer Research is fundamental in translating the fundamental findings into clinical practice. Therefore, the major aim of this section is to participate in bridging the gap between basic cancer research and clinical cancer care that is relevant to the local patient population. We have been working to bring promising molecular diagnostic technologies into clinical use.  We are particularly interested in non-invasive methods to follow up cancer treatment response and early detection of relapses using blood circulating tumor DNA as a biomarker. Additionally, we are involved in identifying the mutational frequencies of important oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes in the Saudi breast cancer population.