Karina J. Yoon, Ph.D.


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Assistant Professor

To contact Dr. Yoon:
1670 University Blvd.

VH 241
Phone: Office (205) 934-6761; Lab (205) 934-6768; Tumorgraft Facility (205) 934-6760
Fax: (205) 934-8240
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Research Focus: 

  • Molecular and cellular mechanisms of cancer metastasis
  • The role of cell adhesion molecules in tumor progression and metastasis
  • Novel therapeutic interventions to prevent metastatic progression
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Primary human tumor xenograft models of solid tumors


Research Interests: 

The primary cause of death for patients with solid tumors is the development of metastatic disease. For many tumor types once metastasis has occurred few, if any, treatments are effective. Our primary research focus is to understand mechanisms underlying the metastasis of neuroblastoma, a major cause of mortality in high-risk neuroblastoma patients.  We propose that studies with neuroblastoma will serve as model systems for mechanisms of metastasis of other types of solid tumors. Our data indicate that one of the cell adhesion molecules, Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-2 (ICAM-2), functions as a key regulator of metastatic progression in neuroblastoma. Importantly, immunostaining of a primary neuroblastoma tissue microarray corroborated this observation in that ICAM-2 expression in primary tumor cells was associated with stage of disease or tumor cell morphology of primary neuroblastoma cells recognized to have limited metastatic potential and favorable clinical features. Our immediate goal is to define the molecular mechanisms by which  ICAM-2 suppresses the metastatic progression of neuroblastoma cells. Ultimately, the long-term goal of our lab is to identify novel pathways involved in metastatic solid tumor progression that might be exploited therapeutically.

We also are developing a panel of mouse models of pancreatic cancer using primary human tumor specimens implanted subcutaneously into immune compromised mice. Primary human tumor xenograft models established directly from human tumors most accurately reflect the genetic and molecular characteristics of specific human tumors. These molecularly characterized models will serve as valuable tools for cancer-type specific drug testing and biomarker discovery.

The central principle of our research is a multidisciplinary and integrative approach to the analysis of molecular, mechanistic characteristics of cancer metastasis, using a combination of molecular biology, animal models and in vitro / in vivo imaging techniques. We use a wide range of techniques to achieve our research goals. These techniques include but are not limited to the following: RT-PCR, RT Q-PCR, immunoblots, co-immunoprecipitations, flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, animal imaging, drug studies, molecular cloning, and small animal surgery.


Selected Publications:

Feduska JM, Aller SG, Garcia PL, Cramer SL, Council LN, van Waardenburg RCAM, Yoon KJ. ICAM-2 confers a non-metastatic phenotype in neuroblastoma cells by interaction with α-actinin. Oncogene 2014 (accepted).

Garcia PL, Council LN, Christein J, Arnoletti JP, Heslin MJ, Richardson JH, Gamblin TL, Bjornsti M-A, Yoon KJ.  Development and pathophysiological evaluation of tumorgraft models of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. PLoS One 8(10): e78183, 2013. PMID: 24194913.

Feduska JM, Garcia PL, Brennan SB, Bu S, Council LN, Yoon KJ. N-glycosylation of ICAM-2 is required for ICAM-2-mediated complete suppression of metastatic potential of SK-N-AS neuroblastoma cells. BMC Cancer, 13: 261, 2013. PMID: 23714211.

Yoon KJ, Danks MK. Cell adhesion molecules as targets for therapy of neuroblastoma. Cancer Biol Ther 8(4):306-311, 2009. PMID: 19197150.

Yoon KJ, Phelps DA, Bush RA, Remack JS, Billups CA, Khoury JD. ICAM-2 expression mediates a membrane-actin link, confers a nonmetastatic phenotype and reflects favorable tumor stage or histology in neuroblastoma. PLoS One 3(11):e3629, 2008. PMID: 18978946.

Wagner LM, McLendon RE, Yoon KJ, Weiss BD, Billups CA, Danks MK. Targeting methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase in the treatment of neuroblastoma. Clin Cancer Res 15;13(18 Pt 1): 5418-5425, 2007. PMID: 17875772.

Danks MK, Yoon KJ, Bush RA, Remack JS, Wierdl M, Tsurkan L, Kim SU, Garcia E, Metz MZ, Najbauer J, Potter PM, Aboody KS. Tumor-targeted enzyme/prodrug therapy mediates long-term disease-free survival of mice bearing disseminated neuroblastoma. Cancer Res 67(1): 22-25, 2007. PMID: 17210679.

Yoon KJ, Qi J, Remack JS, Virga KG, Hatfield MJ, Potter PM, Lee RE, Danks MK. Development of an etoposide prodrug for dual prodrug-enzyme antitumor therapy. Mol Cancer Ther 5(6): 1577-1584, 2006. PMID: 16818517.