Dr. Ji Young Yoo
Dr. Ji Young Yoo

The Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School welcomed a new Rising STAR in 2017 who will pursue studies related to developing safe cancer gene therapies.

Dr. Ji Young Yoo joins McGovern Medical School from the Department of Neurological Surgery at Ohio State University (OSU), where she served as a research assistant professor and worked in the laboratory of Dr. Balveen Kaur, currently a professor and John P. and Katherine G. McGovern Distinguished Chair in the Department of Neurosurgery, for her post-doctoral training.

The UT System Board of Regents created the Faculty Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STARs) Program in 2004 to help UT institutions attract and retain outstanding faculty. Awards, which can be used to purchase equipment and renovate facilities, require institutional support and are available to support the recruitment of tenure-track faculty members at any rank.

Yoo has extensive expertise in basic and translational neurooncology research involving cancer biology, including the response and resistance to therapeutics. Her research at OSU has resulted in several sentinel discoveries supporting novel therapeutic approaches to treat brain tumors. She collectively has 42 publications, nine of which as first author, and has an h-index of 18 based on more than 900 citations according to Google Scholar. One of her papers published in Molecular Therapy has been cited more than 100 times and has since become an important reference point for the inhibition of agiogenesis in tumors.

During post-doctoral training at OSU, Yoo focused on host stromal responses elicited upon Oncolytic HSV-1 (OV) treatment of malignant glioma, and this research became the impetus behind her goal to transform brain tumors resistant to current therapies into treatable tumors. Yoo’s research highlighted how OV-infected tumor cells can lead to the education of uninfected tumor and stromal cells in the tumor micro environment.

Her recruitment to McGovern Medical School and will significantly enhance the chances of developing a successful neurooncology program at UTHealth.

“Dr. Yoo demonstrates a keen scientific mind that has been consistently productive,” Dr. Jeremy Rich, chair of the Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Cleveland Clinic Foundation, said in a recommendation letter. “Her research has significant implications for cancer therapeutics, and this is reflected in the recognition she has already achieved. I have no doubt that she is an excellent independent scientist who will continuously make profound contributions to the field of cancer therapy.”