Dr. Hasini Jayatilaka, Ph.D.

For her excellence in Cancer Research.

Dr. Hasini Jayatilaka is Awarded Exceptional Achievement for discovering a novel mechanism that causes cancer cells to break away from tumors and metastasis.

Dr. Jayatilaka was born in Australia, raised in Colombo, and attended St. Bridget’s Convent in Sri Lanka. Hasini came to the United States in 2009 to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree and eventually a PhD at Johns Hopkins University in Chemical and Biomolecular engineering.

During her sophomore year of college, she found herself performing the early stages of her outstanding work at the Institute for NanoBioTechnology under the mentorship of Dr. Denis Wirtz, cofounder and core faculty member of the Institute for NanoBioTechnology and Vice Provost for Research at Johns Hopkins University.

Through her work, Dr. Jayatilaka discovered a novel synergistic signalling pathway between interleukin 6 and 8 that is responsible for regulating metastasis. Inhibition of this pathway decreases the metastatic burden of cancer cells. Testing in pre-clinical models has demonstrated that inhibiting this synergistic cell density-dependent signalling mechanism significantly reduces effective metastasis to the lungs, liver, and lymph nodes without accelerating tumor growth. The results of Dr. Jayatilaka’s study established a novel method of solely targeting metastasis which is responsible for 90% of cancer-related deaths. In addition, they laid the foundation for developing combination therapies that effectively target tumor growth and metastasis and establishing bi-specific antibodies to target the synergistic signalling mechanism. Dr. Jayatilaka was named a Forbes 30 under 30 in Science in 2018 for her contributions to cancer metastasis.

Dr. Jayatilaka became a postdoctoral scientist at Stanford University and studied mechanisms of relapse and metastasis using novel technologies such as mass cytometry (CyTOF) and Multiplexed Ion Beam Imaging (MIBI) to conduct multiparameter protein analysis. Considering that current cancer treatments ultimately fail to owe to metastasis and relapse, her work uncovered new insights that will help develop immunotherapies by providing future avenues for therapeutic design.

Dr. Jayatilaka is currently a senior manager in the Global Commercial Strategy and Operations group at Gilead Sciences, where she supports developing new therapeutics to cure diseases. She is also a strategic advisor for AtlasXomics, a startup company recently formed to bring novel spatial transcriptomics and proteomics technology to market.

Sri Lanka Foundation would like to Thank and Acknowledge Dr. Hasini Jayatilaka for her continued beyond-belief research on understanding the complex pathways that govern metastasis, and the spread of cancer, which is responsible for 90% of cancer-related deaths. She recently discovered a new signaling pathway that controls metastasis and showed that the spread of cancer could be slowed down by blocking the pathway.