Please Enter a Search Term
"Building a Healthy Tomorrow"  TM

Kensuke Hirasawa

BioMedical Sciences
PhD University of Tokyo

Professor of Immunology

Division of BioMedical Sciences
Faculty of Medicine
Memorial University of Newfoundland 
300 Prince Philip Dr.
St. John's, NL
t: 709-864-6058 / 709-864-6059

Facebook page:  click here to link


Currently looking for graduate students motivated to become a researcher in the field of cancer biology and gene therapy. Also accepting undergraduate students that want to experience biomedical research in summers. 

Research Projects

IRF1 and viral oncolysis 
Oncolytic viruses are engineered or naturally occurring viruses that replicate in cancer cells, but not in normal cells. We investigate molecular mechanisms of how oncolytic viruses selectively infect cancer cells. We recently identified that one of the oncogenic signaling pathways, Ras/MEK, inhibits function of a cellular antiviral protein known as interferon regulatory factor (IRF)-1.  

Schematic diagram illustrating why cancer cells are more susceptible to oncolytic viruses

Cancer-specific fluorescence induced by protoporphyrin IX
Protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) is an endogenous photosensitizer that is accumulated in a cancer-cell specific manner following treatment with the heme precursor 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA). The cancer-specific fluorescence of PpIX is used to distinguish tumor from normal tissue, which has proven clinically useful during fluorescence-image guided surgery. We are seeking ways to   increase the cancer-specific fluorescence by chemical inhibitors targeting cellular signaling pathways.   

PpIX fluorescence in mouse breast tumors treated with vehicle, 5ALA/DMSO or 5AlA/inhibitor

Current Lab Members
Maria Licursi (Postdoctoral fellow)
Vipin Shankar (Postdoctoral fellow)
Yumiko Komatsu (PhD student)
Ema Yoshioka (MSc student)
Leena Derwish (Research assistant)
Suzette Rutihinda (Undergraduate student)
Ysabel Menese (Undergraduate student)

Left:  Jose, Vipin, Ysabel, Sue, Ken, Maria, Ema, Leena

Lab Alumni
Dr. Sherri Christian  (Postdoctoral Fellow) currently assistant professor, MUN
Thaddeus Collier (MSc Student) currently biology instructor at the College of North Atlantic
Maria Licursi (PhD student) currently postdoctoral fellow, MUN
Nader AbuSara (MSc student) currently PhD student, MUN
Nhu Ho (Research assistant) currently research assistant, U of Toronto
Sarah Battcock, Joy Hopley, Michael Davis, Susan Wakeham, Rahul Kalsi (Undergraduate Student) currently medical School, MUN or MD

Research Grants
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, $150,000 
Regulation of IRF1 by Ras/MEK in breast cancer cells (Principle Investigator)
Innovation grant, Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, $200,000
Exploiting modulation of PpIX accumulation by Ras/MEK: an innovative approach
towards photodynamic therapy. (Principle Investigator)
NSERC Discovery Grant, $150,000
IRES-mediated translation during cellular stress. (Principle Investigator)
CIHR/ Regional Partnership Program, $334,658
Mechanisms of Ras-dependent oncolysis. (Principle Investigator)

Recent Publications (2009-2015)

1. Global gene analysis identifying genes commonly regulated by the Ras/Raf/MEK and type I IFN pathways. (2015) Komatsu Y, Hirasawa K, Christian SL. Genomics Data, 4, 84-87. 
2. Promotion of viral IRES-mediated translation initiation under mild hypothermia. (2015) Licursi M, Carmona-Martines RA, Razavi S and Hirasawa K. PLoS ONE (IF3.23), 7;10(5): e0126174. 
3. Restoration of IRF1-dependent anticancer effects by MEK inhibition in human cancer cells. (2014) AbuSara N, Razavi S, Derwish L, Komatsu Y, Licursi M and Hirasawa K. Cancer Letters (IF 5.62), S0304-3835(14)00760-5. 
4. Oncogenic Ras inhibits IRF1 to promote viral oncolysis. Komatsu Y, Christian SL, Nhu Ho, Pongnopparat T, Licursi M and Hirasawa K. Oncogene (IF 8.45), 10.1038/onc.2014.331, 

5. Mostafa AA, Codner D, Hirasawa K, Komatsu Y, Young MN, Steimle V, Drover S. (2014) Activation of ERα signaling differentially modulates IFN-γ induced HLA-class II expression in breast cancer cells. PLoS ONE (IF 3.23), 9(1) e87377 

6. Christian SL, Dong Z, Licirsi M, Komatsu Y, Pongnopparat T, Codner DA and Hirasawa K. (2012)  Global impairment of interferon inducible genes by Ras/MEK underlies viral oncolysis in human cancer cells. PLoS ONE (IF 3.23), 7(9): e44267 

7. Licursi M, Komatsu Y, Pongnopparat T and Hirasawa K. (2012) Promotion of viral IRES-mediated translation under amino acid starvation. Journal of Gen. Virol. (IF 3.18), 93(5): 951-62
8. Licursi M, Christian SL, Pongnopparat T and Hirasawa K. (2011) In vitro and in vivo comparison of viral and cellular internal ribosome entry sites for bicistronic vector expression. Gene Ther. (IF 3.10) 18(6):631-636 
9. Thirukkumaran CM, Nodwell MJ, Hirasawa K, Shi ZQ, Diaz R, Luider J, Johnston RN, Forsyth PA, Magliocco AM, Lee P, Nishikawa S, Donnelly B, Coffey M, Trpkov K, Fonseca K, Spurrell J, Morris DG#. (2010) Oncolytic viral therapy for prostate cancer: efficacy of reovirus as a biological therapeutic. Cancer Res. (IF 9.33)70(6):2435-44
10. Christian SL, Collier TW, Dong Z, Licursi M, Hough CM and Hirasawa K. (2009) Downregulation of STAT2 mediates the Ras/MEK pathway-induced inhibition of the IFN-alpha antiviral response. J. Virol., (IF 4.44), 83(13):6717-6727