Photo of Molly F. Kulesz-Martin, Ph.D.

Molly F. Kulesz-Martin Ph.D.

  • (503) 418-4273
    • Professor of Dermatology School of Medicine
    • Program in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences School of Medicine
    • Cancer Biology Graduate Program School of Medicine

No matter how much we discover about the fascinating workings of the human body, there is always more to know and more we can do for people suffering from diseases. This fact motivates me to pursue my research. I am interested in the molecules responsible for cell survival and maturation into the exquisitely functional inside and outside surfaces of the body. These cells are the sources of most human cancers, including those that are the most difficult to treat. Early in my career as a researcher, I found ways to mimic the process of cancer development outside the body and to identify cancer precursor cells before they became visible as a tumor. As an established researcher, it is a special privilege for me to build upon this earlier work with young scientists at OHSU, engaging their passion and skills for discovery in projects that will help us better understand how cancers develop and how to treat cancer patients more successfully. Using tools provided at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, my team and I have identified specific changes that occur in the molecular progression to cancer and metastasis. These include alterations in enzymes that "tag" tumor suppressing proteins and determine not only their lifetime in the cell but also the lifetime of the cell as a whole. If these tagging proteins are altered, abnormal cells can survive and even thrive under stress from carcinogens and inflammation, outgrowing normal boundaries and ignoring regulatory cues from neighboring cells.

  • Fellowship:

    • Staff Fellowship, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, 1979-1981

Memberships and associations

  • American Association for Cancer Research


  • "Complement C5a Fosters Squamous Carcinogenesis and Limits T Cell Response to Chemotherapy." Cancer Cell  In: , Vol. 34, No. 4, 08.10.2018, p. 561-578.e6.
  • "Induction of anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) as a novel mechanism of EGFR inhibitor resistance in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma patient-derived models." Cancer Biology and Therapy  In: , Vol. 19, No. 10, 03.10.2018, p. 921-933.
  • "Montagna Symposium 2017—Precision Dermatology : Next Generation Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment." Journal of Investigative Dermatology  In: , Vol. 138, No. 6, 01.06.2018, p. 1243-1248.
  • "Multistage Carcinogenesis : Cell and Animal Models."   Carcinogenesis. Vol. 7-15 Elsevier Inc., 2017. p. 11-35.
  • "Montagna Symposium 2016—The Skin : Our Sensory Organ for Itch, Pain, Touch, and Pleasure." Journal of Investigative Dermatology  In: , Vol. 137, No. 7, 01.07.2017, p. 1401-1404.
  • "Quantitative Multiplex Immunohistochemistry Reveals Myeloid-Inflamed Tumor-Immune Complexity Associated with Poor Prognosis." Cell Reports  In: , Vol. 19, No. 1, 04.04.2017, p. 203-217.
  • "Trim32 Deficiency Enhances Th2 Immunity and Predisposes to Features of Atopic Dermatitis." Journal of Investigative Dermatology  In: , Vol. 137, No. 2, 01.02.2017, p. 359-366.
  • "Evidence-Based Precision Oncology with the Cancer Targetome." Trends in Pharmacological Sciences  In: , 2017.
  • "Overexpression of PIK3CA in murine head and neck epithelium drives tumor invasion and metastasis through PDK1 and enhanced TGFβ signaling." Oncogene  In: , Vol. 35, No. 35, 01.09.2016, p. 4641-4652.
  • "Novel pactamycin analogs induce p53 dependent cell-cycle arrest at S-phase in human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cells." PLoS One  In: , Vol. 10, No. 5, e0125322, 04.05.2015.
  • "Hybrid capture 2 is as effective as PCR testing for high-risk human papillomavirus in head and neck cancers." Applied Immunohistochemistry and Molecular Morphology  In: , Vol. 23, No. 4, 22.04.2015, p. 266-272.
  • "Montagna Symposium 2014 - Skin Aging : Molecular Mechanisms and Tissue Consequences." Journal of Investigative Dermatology  In: , Vol. 135, No. 4, 20.04.2015, p. 950-953.
  • "Montagna Symposium 2015 : Harnessing Stem Cells to Reveal Novel Skin Biology and Disease Treatments." Journal of Investigative Dermatology  In: , Vol. 136, 2015, p. 893-896.
  • "B cells regulate macrophage phenotype and response to chemotherapy in squamous carcinomas." Cancer Cell  In: , Vol. 25, No. 6, 16.06.2014, p. 809-821.
  • "Montagna symposium 2013-light and skin : How light sustains, damages, treats, images and modifies skin biology." Journal of Investigative Dermatology  In: , Vol. 134, No. 8, 2014, p. 2064-2067.
  • "Montagna symposium 2012 : Keeping it all together - Adhesion, the cytoskeleton, and signaling in morphogenesis and tissue function." Journal of Investigative Dermatology  In: , Vol. 133, No. 5, 05.2013, p. 1124-1128.
  • "A molecular case report : Functional assay of tyrosine kinase inhibitors in cells from a patient's primary renal cell carcinoma." Cancer Biology and Therapy  In: , Vol. 14, No. 2, 02.2013, p. 95-99.
  • "NF-κB repression by PIAS3 mediated ReLA SUMOylation." PLoS One  In: , Vol. 7, No. 5, e37636, 23.05.2012.
  • "Montagna symposium 2011 : 60th anniversaryadvances in science and medicine catalyzed by pioneering skin research." Journal of Investigative Dermatology  In: , Vol. 132, No. 5, 05.2012, p. 1317-1320.
  • "Methylation of microRNA-9 is a specific and sensitive biomarker for oral and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas." Oral Oncology  In: , Vol. 48, No. 1, 01.2012, p. 73-78.
  • "Attenuation fluctuations and local dermal reflectivity are indicators of immune cell infiltrate and epidermal hyperplasia in skin inflammation."   Progress in Biomedical Optics and Imaging - Proceedings of SPIE. Vol. 8207 2012. 820708.
  • "Tobacco-specific carcinogen nitrosamine 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl) -1-butanone induces AKT activation in head and neck epithelia." International Journal of Oncology  In: , Vol. 39, No. 5, 11.2011, p. 1193-1198.
  • "Montagna symposium 2010 : Small molecules: Skin as the first line of defense." Journal of Investigative Dermatology  In: , Vol. 131, No. 11, 11.2011, p. 2166-2168.
  • "Dermal reflectivity determined by optical coherence tomography is an indicator of epidermal hyperplasia and dermal edema within inflamed skin." Journal of Biomedical Optics  In: , Vol. 16, No. 4, 040503, 04.2011.
  • "Multistage Carcinogenesis : Cell and Animal Models."   Carcinogenesis. Vol. 14 Elsevier Inc., 2010. p. 11-33.
  • "Montagna symposium 2009 : Genetic-epigenetic basis of skin diseases." Journal of Investigative Dermatology  In: , Vol. 130, No. 5, 05.2010, p. 1199-1201.
  • "Regulation of the psoriatic chemokine CCL20 by E3 ligases trim32 and piasy in keratinocytes." Journal of Investigative Dermatology  In: , Vol. 130, No. 5, 05.2010, p. 1384-1390.
  • "Montagna symposium 2008 : The biologic basis of psoriasis." Journal of Investigative Dermatology  In: , Vol. 129, No. 2, 02.2009, p. 259-260.
  • "Global rank-invariant set normalization (GRSN) to reduce systematic distortions in microarray data." BMC Bioinformatics  In: , Vol. 9, 520, 04.12.2008.
  • "Keratinocyte-specific Smad2 ablation results in increased epithelial-mesenchymal transition during skin cancer formation and progression." Journal of Clinical Investigation  In: , Vol. 118, No. 8, 01.08.2008, p. 2722-2732.

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