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Jessica Blackburn, PhD

Cancer Center Member

Dr. Jessica Blackburn

Research Programs:
Molecular and Cellular Oncology

Colleges & Departments:
College of Medicine, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry

Faculty Rank:
Assistant Professor

Research Focus

Our research program is focused on identifying new therapeutic targets for pediatric cancers using zebrafish models. Approximately 70% of human genes have a direct zebrafish ortholog, and cancers made in transgeneic zebrafish develop in much the same way as human cancers. 

My laboratory uses zebrafish models primarily as a screening tool to identify oncogenic drivers of pediatric cancers using transgenic and transplantation approaches where genes of interest are over-expressed or knocked-out to assess their contribution to tumor progression. We also use zebrafish for in vivo drug screens so that we can better understand how tumors respond to therapy and why they develop resistance to ultimately relapse. A major benefit of zebrafish in this setting is the scale at which these experiments can be done. We can use hundreds to thousands of animals to develop statistically significant results, making us more confident in the relevance of our findings as we move to pre-clinical models and human samples.

Contact Information

741 S. Limestone St.
Lexington, KY 40536
United States



  1. Clonal evolution enhances leukemia propagating cell frequency in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia through AKT/mTORC1 pathway activation. Blackburn JS, Liu S, Wilder JL, Dobrinski KP, Lobbardi R, Moore FE, Martinez SA, Chen EY, Lee C, Langenau DM. Cancer Cell. 2014; 25(3):366-78
  2. Zebrafish as a model to assess cancer heterogeneity, progression and relapse. Blackburn JS and Langenau DM. Disease Models and Mechanisms. 2014; 7(7):755-762


Research Equipment