Over the past 10 years, Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson has emerged as one of the leaders in the field of
translational research involving molecular and systems biologic approaches for analysis of malignant
lymphoma. His contributions have also included the development of novel molecular biotechnologic
advancements to facilitate the molecular diagnosis and investigation of hematologic malignancies.
Remarkably, he has made important scientific contributions while also maintaining active participation
in diagnostic hematopathology and molecular pathology. He is certified by the American Board of
Pathology in combined anatomic and clinical pathology, with subspecialty certification in hematology
and molecular genetic pathology. Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson is currently an Associate Professor of
Pathology at the University of Utah, and serves as the Director of Molecular Hematopathology at the
Associated Regional and University Pathologists (ARUP) Laboratory of the University of Utah. He is
the Director of the Molecular Genetic Pathology fellowship training program at the University of Utah
and the Director of the Proteomics Unit at ARUP. His accomplishments highlight the ideals of the
United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, emphasizing clinical, scientific, and educational
distinction and achievement.
Dr. Kojo S. J. Elenitoba-Johnson received his M.D. in 1988 from the University Of Lagos College Of
Medicine, in Lagos, Nigeria. His career in pathology began at Brown University, where he completed a
residency in anatomic and clinical pathology. He was selected as Chief Resident in his second year of
residency in recognition of his remarkable abilities and leadership skills. During those early days
as a resident at Brown University, his interest in hematopathology was cultivated by Drs. Jila
Khorsand and L. Jeffrey Medeiros. Also during residency, he sought and acquired expertise in
molecular biology in the laboratory of Dr. Thomas C. King, and began his investigations of the
pathogenesis of malignant lymphomas.
Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson received his subspecialty training in hematopathology under the supervision of
Dr. Elaine Jaffe at the National Cancer Institute, at the National Institutes of Health from
1995-1997. Under the guidance of Dr. Mark Raffeld at the NCI, he became interested in the critical
molecular events underlying follicular lymphoma transformation. He subsequently published a landmark
study that was the first to implicate alterations involving the cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor
p16 in the pathogenesis of follicular lymphoma transformation. For this
work, he was recognized with the Society for Hematopathology Pathologist-in-Training Award in 1998.
However, his measure as a scientist and clinician is best seen since establishing his own research
laboratory at the University of Utah where he was recruited by Dr. Carl R. Kjeldsberg. He was
appointed as an Assistant Professor in 1997 and rapidly made important contributions to molecular
diagnostics by advancing the application of novel molecular biotechnology approaches to facilitate the
detection of chromosomal translocations. In a series of successive publications, he introduced the
concept of utilization of amplicon melting curve analysis for the facile detection of chromosomal
Further in the realm of contributions using novel approaches for the detection of genetic aberrations,
Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson's laboratory also pioneered the utilization of multicolor fluorimetry and
melting curve analysis for the multiplex detection of point mutations in oncogenes implicated in the
pathogenesis of human hematopoietic malignancies.
Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson's work has expanded our understanding of the complexities of follicular
lymphoma transformation. Using gene expression profiling, he and his coworkers demonstrated for the
first time that several deregulated growth factors and cytokine receptor genes signaling through the
mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway play a role in the progression of follicular lymphoma to
diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. This study highlighted the complexity of deregulated processes
involved in lymphoma progression, and provided evidence for the activity of an autocrine-paracrine
feed-back loop involving growth factors, cytokines and their receptors in the pathogenesis of
follicular lymphoma transformation.
In 2002, Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson established the proteomic mass spectrometry facility at ARUP. His
most recent work has capitalized on proteomic technologies to dissect out the aberrant signaling
pathways involved in the pathogenesis of malignant lymphoma. While the NPM/ALK translocation has been
recognized as a critical event in anaplastic large cell lymphoma, the interacting partners of the
aberrantly expressed oncogenic chimeric-ALK tyrosine kinase was uncharacterized. In one of several
productive collaborations with his colleague and wife Dr. Megan Lim, they examined NPM/ALK
immunocomplexes using tandem mass spectrometry to identify interacting partners of NPM/ALK. This work
dramatically expanded the number of known interacting partners of the chimeric NPM-ALK fusion protein,
and provided novel insights into mechanisms by which the abnormal fusion protein promotes an oncogenic
phenotype in anaplastic large cell lymphoma. Using a similar approach, Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson and
colleagues also characterized the `interactome' of the BCL6 protein whose expression is critical
in the formation of germinal centers and genetic alterations of which represent the most frequent
recurrent aberration in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. In recent studies, Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson
described a novel fusion mapping approach providing one of the first reports of a proteomic based
approach for the characterization of oncogenic chimeric fusion proteins. Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson also
contributed a vital advance to translational research by developing an approach for tandem mass
spectrometry-based large-scale identification of proteins in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues.
Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson plays an important role as mentor and teacher to the medical students, graduate
students, residents and fellows in the field of pathology. Significantly, Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson's
outstanding performance as a professor has been recognized when he was the recipient of the University
of Utah's Outstanding Teaching Award in Anatomic Pathology in 1999, and repeated in 2003. Several of
his trainees have been recognized with national awards including the Stowell-Orbison Certificate of
Merit, the Society of Hematopathology Award, the American Society of Hematology Trainee Research Award
and the Association of Molecular Pathology young investigator award among others. Thus, he has
played, and continues to play a critical role in molding of future physicians and scientists,
embracing another ideal of our Academy.
Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson has been an active member of the USCAP and the AMP since 1997. His
publications as lead author or principal investigator have appeared in the most prestigious journals:
Nature Medicine, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Blood,
Molecular and Cellular Proteomics, Oncogene, the American Journal of Pathology, and of course,
our Academy's journals Laboratory Investigation and
Modern Pathology. Support of his research work through continued NIH funding as principal
investigator is a further testament to the significance of his research program. Dr.
Elenitoba-Johnson has also contributed several chapters in authoritative texts on Hodgkin and
non-Hodgkin lymphomas, and the molecular diagnosis of hematopoietic malignancies. He has served as a
reviewer on a variety of NIH review panels evaluating grant proposals in basic and multidisciplinary
In summary, Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson has contributed a substantial body of work to the understanding of
the molecular biology of malignant lymphomas. He has also developed a number of key technological
approaches that facilitate the molecular diagnosis and investigation of hematopoietic malignancies.
Dr. Elenitoba-Johnson exemplifies the ideals of our academy by combining considerable skills in
diagnostic pathology with technological innovation and molecular biology to advance our understanding
of human diseases.