Melanoma researcher selected as AACR NextGen Star

Willy Hugo

Scientist Dr. Willy Hugo, adjunct assistant professor of medicine and dermatology, has been named as a NextGen Star by the American Association of Cancer Research for his efforts in finding new ways to tackle melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer.

Hugo, a member of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, was one of eight young cancer investigators chosen as a promising young scientist who is continuing to drive forward progress in cancer research. As a NextGen star, Hugo was invited to give a talk on immune evasion mechanisms in melanoma resistant to targeted- and/or immunotherapy in a major symposium at the AACR’s Annual Meeting in Chicago last month. 

“I am truly humbled by the recognition given by the AACR on my work in the field of therapeutic resistance in melanoma,” Hugo said. “As the cancer field is gearing up for the application of combinatorial immunotherapy, the need for understanding the biology behind the cancer’s response or resistance to the therapy has become even more critical. Such gap in knowledge is the motivation of my current focus in understanding melanoma’s response to targeted- and immunotherapy at the single cell level.”

Under the mentorship of Dr. Roger Lo, professor of dermatology and molecular and medical pharmacology in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a member of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Hugo’s postdoctoral training focused on analyzing the genome, transcriptome, methylome, regulome and proteome of patient and melanoma models. Now Hugo is studying genes and pathways affecting melanoma's sensitivity and resistance toward targeted- and immunotherapies at single-cell level. He is translating these findings to help improve treatment outcomes for people diagnosed with the disease.