The Center for Translational Cancer Research

Ayyappan K. Rajasekaran, Ph.D.

Director, Nemours Center for Childhood Cancer Research, A.I. duPont Hospital for Children

Nemours Center for Childhood Cancer Research
Rockland Center I-242
Department of Biomedical Research
A.I. duPont Hospital for Children
1600 Rockland Road
Wilmington, DE 19803

Phone Number: 
(302) 651-6593
(302) 651-6897

Ph.D., Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India 1988
M.S., Presidency College, University of Madras, India, 1983
B.S., Presidency College, University of Madras, India, 1981


Research Interests:
Dr. Rajasekaran oversees cancer research activities in three Nemours Children’s Clinics in Florida and the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, DE.  He holds academic positions as Research Professor of Pediatrics at Thomas Jefferson University Medical College, as Affiliated Scientist in the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Delaware, and as Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Delaware. He is a full member of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University, and a member of the steering committee for the Center for Translational Cancer Research. He is also a member of the Delaware Cancer Consortium, where he serves on the Tobacco and Other Risk Factors Committee, which focuses on cancer prevention and awareness education, particularly for children. He is a member of the Task Force of Delaware Health Science Alliance, a consortium between NCCCR/Nemours, Center for Translational Cancer Research/University of Delaware, the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center/Christiana Care, and Kimmel Cancer Center/Thomas Jefferson University, which is an advisory group working to build a state-funded Delaware Center for Cancer Biology. Recently, Dr. Ayyappan Rajasekaran became a member of the advisory group of the American Cancer Society’s India Cancer Initiative program, a major initiative to increase cancer awareness and education in India. He is also a member of the Grief Awareness Coalition in Supporting Kidds, an organization involved in providing emotional help to children whose parents or family members have died due to cancer or other illness.

Prior to joining the NCCCR, Dr. Ayyappan Rajasekaran was a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UCLA and a full member of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and Molecular Biology Institute. To expand his skills in leadership and administration, he completed an Executive Program in Management from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Dr. Ayyappan Rajasekaran has also been actively involved in graduate education. He mentored 14 PhD and MD/PhD students at UCLA and was the thesis mentor for four graduate students. He was the director of the graduate program in the department, which had 36 PhD and MD/PhD students. Dr. Ayyappan Rajasekaran designed a course on Histology and Pathology for graduate students that was ranked as the “best course” by the students and received an award. This course later developed into the Molecular Basis of Disease program, which he co-directed with Drs. Peter Tontonoz and Jonathan Said. At UCLA, Dr. Ayyappan Rajasekaran was a member of the Steering Committee of the Access graduate program, which recruits more than 50 PhD students annually. He was involved in designing the Access curriculum and the courses for graduate education and in the recruitment of graduate students to the program.

Dr. Ayyappan Rajasekaran’s research focuses on identification and validation of cancer biomarkers and understanding molecular mechanisms involved in the transformation of normal cells into cancer. His work has focused on how an ion transporter, the sodium pump (Na,K-ATPase), is involved in cancer progression. His group established that the b-subunit of Na,K-ATPase is a cell-cell adhesion molecule, and loss of its expression is associated with tumor formation and progression. His group has identified the Na,K-ATPase b- subunit as a biomarker for bladder cancer recurrence and the a-subunit as a survival marker for renal clear cell carcinoma. His group also investigates the function of prostate specific membrane antigen, a biomarker for aggressive prostate cancer. Recently, his group identified the function of this protein and showed that this biomarker has an etiological role in the induction of chromosomal instability in cancer cells. He has published more than 60 papers in top-tier journals and has obtained continued NIH R01 and DOD funding for his research program. In addition, his four UCLA graduate students received NIH fellowships, and three postdoctoral fellows were awarded Federal and Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center training fellowships. Dr. Ayyappan Rajasekaran has also participated in a UCLA Lung SPORE and a UCLA Center for Biological Radioprotectors grant. He has three US patents issued while he was at Cornell and five patents pending from UCLA.  He reviews papers for more than 20 journals and serves as an adhoc member for NIH, NSF, DOD and several private funding agencies. He is committed to the welfare of children and plans to build an excellent childhood cancer research facility in Delaware.