Investigator, Hematology, Oncology and Blood and Marrow Transplantation
Professor of Research Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine of USC
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John Groffen, PhD, is the co-discoverer (with Dr. N. Heisterkamp) of the fusion of the BCR and ABL genes on the Philadelphia (Ph) chromosome in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and Ph-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). My studies and those of others led to the development of small molecules that inhibits the tyrosine kinase activity of Bcr/Abl which was the first rationally designed cancer therapeutic. These drugs are highly successful in the treatment of this type of blood cancer.

More recently, after a sabbatical at the Institute for Glycomics, at the Gold Coast in Australia, Groffen initiated studies to examine carbohydrate modifications on leukemia cells and the role of these in leukemia cell survival. The study of carbohydrate modifications on proteins and lipids (Glycomics) represents a final frontier now that Genomics and Proteomics have become routine. Carbohydrate modifications are difficult to study, and we are using novel glycan and lectin arrays and biochemical basic science approaches to attack this problem.

Groffen has been working on basic mechanisms in the field of leukemia and immunology since 1981 and has mentored more than 20 pre-doctoral fellows and more than 40 post-docs during that period. Their success is reflected in numerous co-authorships on basic science papers from Groffen’ s lab and, for the more senior among them, in their further professional career development in science. Numerous previous post-docs now run independent laboratories in the world.


Medical School: 

University of Groningen, The Netherlands


National Institute of Medical Research, Research Laboratory of Molecular Biology


Professional Memberships: 

American Association for the Advancement of Science


Selected Publications:

Fei F, Abdel-Azim, H, Lim M, Arutyunyan A, Groffen J, Heisterkamp N. Galectin-3 in pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Leukemia 2013. PMID: 23760399

Parameswaran R, Lim M, Arutyunyan A,Abdel-Azim H, Hurtz C, Lau K, Müschen M, Yu RK, von Itzstein M, Heisterkamp N, Groffen J. O-Acetylated N-acetylneuraminic acid as a novel target for therapy in human pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia. J Exp Med, 210, 805-819, 2013. PMID: 23478187

Heisterkamp, N., Jenster, G., ten Hoeve, J., Zovich, D., Pattengale, P.K. and Groffen, J. Acute leukaemia in BCR/ABL transgenic mice. Nature 344:251-254, 1990

Groffen, J., Stephenson, J. R., Heisterkamp, N., de Klein, A., Bartram, C. R. and Grosveld, G. Philadelphia chromosomal breakpoints are clustered within a limited region, bcr, on chromosome 22. Cell 36:93-99, 1984

Heisterkamp, N., Stephenson, J. R., Groffen, J., Hansen, P., de Klein, A., Bartram, C. R. andGrosveld, G. Localization of the c-abl oncogene adjacent to a translocation breakpoint in chronic myelocytic leukemia. Nature 306:239-242, 1983

Research Interests: 

My major areas of research interests include the molecular process (signal transduction) underlying oncogenesis, cell growth and differentiation and/or development; the isolation and characterization of genes involved in human carcinogenesis; the development of transgenic mouse models for human cancer and/or disease; through homologous recombination, generating mice lacking specific gene products in order to increase our understanding of the gene product in the cellular or physiological processes of man; study of the production of oxygen radicals (ROS) as a result of inflammation and bacterial infection; identification of novel drugs in the treatment of Ph-positive leukemias; and glycomics.

Visit the Molecular Carcinogenesis Lab.


Department: Hematology-Oncology

Address: CHLA, Smith Research Tower, room 815

Phone: 323-361-4595

4650 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Phone: 323-361-4595Office