Aleksandar Sekulic, M.D., Ph.D., focuses his research interests on developing translational approaches for the study of genomics in skin diseases; identifying the genetics and molecular mechanisms of malignant melanoma; discovering the molecular diagnostics of pigmented lesions; and understanding the regulation of epidermal proliferation and differentiation as it relates to human skin disease.
Dr. Sekulic has extensive and active involvement in basic and translational research as well as clinical trials, exemplified by his role as principal investigator on the ERIVANCE trial, leading to the FDA approval of vismodegib, the first hedgehog pathway inhibitor for treatment of basal cell carcinoma.
Dr. Sekulic has served as a teacher and mentor for numerous residents and students and is a recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Recognition Award from Mayo Medical School. He has given international, national, and regional presentations and has coauthored numerous articles, book chapters, abstracts and letters, which have been published in numerous peer‐reviewed journals.
With broad funding support, he was honored as a recipient of the Gerstner Family Foundation Career Development Award in Individualized Medicine and is currently funded by the Stand Up To Cancer and Melanoma Research Alliance, as well as the National Institute of Health, including two R01 awards as the principal investigator.
As Associate Director for the Center for Individualized Medicine in Arizona, Dr. Sekulic leads the center's transition into patient care by introducing genomic-based products and services into the clinical practice as a means of differentiating Mayo Clinic patient care.
- Genomically informed personalized treatment of melanoma. The principal focus of this project is implementation of approaches for individualized therapy selection based on genomic alterations in patient's tumors, carried out within a multi-institutional randomized clinical trial. Molecularly characterized patient derived xenograft (PDX) mouse models, developed within this effort, offer preclinical models for study of molecularly informed therapy selection.
- Development of improved approaches for hedgehog pathway inhibition in basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Dr. Sekulic and colleagues led the clinical development efforts culminating in the FDA approval of the first hedgehog pathway inhibitor vismodegib. Ongoing activities further explore the role of such therapies in a broader population of BCC patients.
- Tumor clonal evolution in melanoma progression and treatment. It is increasingly obvious that advanced cancers resemble a complex evolutionary ecosystem, rather than a homogeneous process. A series of studies within Dr. Sekulic's group explore the role of stepwise clonal evolution on the progression of melanoma from primary to metastatic disease, as well as the impact of clonal heterogeneity on response and resistance to therapy.
- Development of novel therapeutics for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of skin. This study focuses on the novel therapeutic approaches to impact molecular changes that contribute to altered balance of keratinocyte differentiation and proliferation in SCC.
- Identification of novel genetic drivers in skin diseases. Numerous skin diseases display clear heritable pattern, although the genes involved and underlying mechanisms remain unknown. The group applies genomic sequencing to identify novel disease drivers and evaluate possible therapeutic approaches.
Significance to patient care
Skin cancers are the most common group of human cancers. Dr. Sekulic and his colleagues focus on the study of genomic changes and molecular drivers in skin cancers.
The goal of these efforts is to rapidly integrate such discoveries into clinical practice through development of more effective ways to detect and treat skin cancers.
A particular emphasis is placed on development of approaches that enable individualized, patient-specific treatments.
- Associate professor, Translational Genomics Research Institute, Phoenix, Arizona, 2015-present
- Vice chair, Department of Dermatology, Mayo Clinic Arizona, 2014-present
- American Academy of Dermatology Non‐Melanoma Skin Cancer Guidelines Panels, 2014-present
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Guideline Panel, 2014-present
- Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) and Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) Melanoma Dream Team Principal, 2011-present
- Chair, Cutaneous Oncology Disease Group, Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic Arizona, 2009-present
- Recipient, Investigator of the Year Award, Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus, 2018