Prof. Yardena Samuels

Department of Molecular Cell Biology Director, EKARD Institute for Cancer Diagnosis Research Weizmann Institute of Science

Prof. Yardena Samuels was born in Tel Hashomer, Israel. She received her BSc from Cambridge University, UK in 1993, and earned an MSc in immunology and cancer research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Hadassah Medical School in 1997. She completed a PhD in Molecular Cancer Biology at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Imperial College, London in 2002. Prof. Samuels worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from 2003 to 2006. She served as an assistant professor with the Cancer Genetics Branch of the (US) National Human Genome Research Institute and Head of their Molecular Cancer Genetics Section. Prof. Samuels joined the Department of Molecular Cell Biology at the Weizmann Institute in December, 2012. Today she is the director of the Ekard Institute for Cancer Diagnosis Research of the Moross Integrated Cancer Center and is the Knell Family Professor.

Prof. Samuels uses the power of DNA sequencing to identify new groups of genetic mutations involved in the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma. One of her discoveries, a mutation found in nearly one-fifth of melanoma cases, was particularly encouraging because it is located in a gene already targeted by a drug approved for certain types of breast cancer, and preliminary clinical trials are underway. By the time a cancer is diagnosed, it has billions of cells carrying DNA abnormalities, some of which have a functional role as “drivers” in malignant proliferation, but many are “passengers” that have no function in tumorigenesis. In her postdoctoral work, she discovered that the gene encoding the protein PI3Kalpha is mutated in 32% of colorectal cancer patients as well as many other human cancers, making it one of the most highly mutated oncogenes. Prof. Samuels is developing strategies to separate the cancer-causing drivers from the passengers. She concentrates on several major signal transduction pathways searching for possible therapeutic targets. Her studies provide the kind of data required for truly personalized cancer therapy.

Prof. Samuels was awarded a European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) postdoctoral fellowship as well as the European Research Council (ERC) award. She won an Alfred Blalock, Young Investigators' Day Award, at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2006 and was named one of Genome Technology’s top 25 Young Investigators in 2009. Prof. Samuels is a member on several Editorial Boards including the Journal of Investigative Dermatology and serves as a reviewer for a number of prestigious journals, including Science, Nature Genetics, Nature Methods, and Cancer Research.

She is married to Dr. Ori Lev and has two boys: Gil and Nitsan.