Jesse D Martinez, PhD

Professor, Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Chair, Cancer Biology - GIDP
Director, Research / Facilities
Professor, Genetics - GIDP
Phone Number: 
(520) 626-4250
Professional Bio: 

Dr. Martinez has been at the University of Arizona since 1991 and is currently a tenured Professor in the Department of Cell & Molecular Medicine.  During his time at the U of A he has had a number of leadership roles including Chief Scientific Officer, Director of Research Education, and Director of Facilities all for the University of Arizona Cancer Center (UACC).  Dr. Martinez is also Chair of the Cancer Biology Graduate Interdisciplinary Program and am the principal investigator of the T32 training grant that supports the CBIO program which was recently renewed.  

Dr. Martinez is currently a member of the NCI Subcommittee F, Career Development of National Institute Initial Review Group and has reviewed numerous training programs.   He is also one of several Principal Investigators on a 14 million dollar U54 which supports a partnership between the UACC and Northern Arizona University that focuses on the prevention of cancer among Native Americans in Arizona and the Southwest.  As part of his leadership activities and as a minority faculty member, he has worked to recruit new faculty from underrepresented groups.  To this end, he worked with Dr. Serio to successfully hire a Hispanic woman, Justina McEvoy, into the Cancer Center, through a partnership mechanism that included the Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology and the UACC. 

Dr. Martinez also has extensive experience with pilot research programs.  He was the Principal investigator for our American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant (ACS-IRG) for seven years. The objective of this program is to facilitate the development of new faculty by providing them with seed money so as to enable them to generate sufficient preliminary data to apply for external funding.  As director of the ACS-IRG program, Dr. Martinez collaborated with the GI SPORE development research program to identify new faculty with projects that could be funded by both the GI SPORE and the ACS program, so as to leverage the funds from both sources.  He had oversight of the developmental funds associated with our Cancer Center Support Grant during his term as Chief Scientific Officer. 

Dr. Martinez is the senior faculty member in charge of our new faculty mentoring program that monitors the progress and development of new faculty in our Cancer Center and initiated a review process designed to assist new faculty in developing their research proposals.

Clinical Information

Disease or Clinical Specialty: 
Colon-Colorectal Cancer

Research Information

Research Program: 
Cancer Biology
Member Status: 
Research Member
Year of Membership Acceptance: 
Research Focus: 

Dr. Martinez's overall interest is in the dysregulated signaling that occurs during tumor development and in applying the knowledge gained from our investigations to interfering with or circumventing those dysregulated pathways as a means for treating or preventing cancer.

Dr. Martinez's diverse interests have resulted in the pursuit of three projects that each focus on different aspects of cancer signaling and tumor development:

The first of these investigates the role that bile acids may have in promoting colon cancer. Here they are examining the effects that bile acids have on the cell signaling using molecular and cellular biology approaches as well as animal models to identify bile acid-activated signaling pathways which may be targets for preventive strategies.

The second project examines the mechanisms that regulate activation of the p53 tumor suppressor protein. Our approach employs a genetic screen for mutant cell lines that are incapable of activating p53 in an effort to identify novel pathways that regulate the protein’s function and which may be targeted for inactivation during tumorigenesis.

The third project focuses on a novel observation made while characterizing the interaction between p53 and the scaffolding protein 14-3-3 gamma. In these studies we are examining the possibility that 14-3-3 gamma may be instrumental in causing aneuploidy in lung cancers which frequently overexpress this protein and that wild-type p53 may act to downregulate this activity. Here the eventual goal is to develop agents for imaging and treating lung cancer.

Read more at the UA Medical Student Research Program.

Selected Publications: 

Professional Information

Positions and Honors: 
Fleischman Foundation Scholarship, awarded competitively to graduating high school seniors, 1972-1973
National Science Foundation Minority Graduate Fellowship, awarded competitively to students nationally, 1982-1985

Academic Information

Biochemistry, University of Nevada, Reno, NV
Undergraduate School: 
BS, University of Nevada