Advances at Mass General Cancer Center

Advances at Mass General Cancer Center is our electronic publication that highlights our investigators’ recent publications in high-profile journals.

Current Article

Dynamic HER2 Switch Discovered in Circulating Breast Cancer Cells

Can understanding plasticity of HER2 protein states in breast cancer cells of treatment-resistant tumors lead to better treatments? Download this article

Contributors

  • Shyamala Maheswaran, PhD

    Associate Professor of Surgery, Mass General Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School

  • Aditya Bardia, MD, MPH

    Medical Oncologist, Mass General Cancer Center; Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Researchers Shyamala Maheswaran, PhD, Aditya Bardia, MD, and Nicole Vincent Jordan, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, along with Daniel Haber, MD, PhD, director of Mass General Cancer Center, using ex vivo cultures of circulating tumor cells derived from breast cancer patients, have shown that breast cancer cells can spontaneously switch from a HER2-negative to a HER2-positive state and vice versa. These two populations have different molecular pathways that drive their growth. Several growth-factor-driven pathways are active in the HER2-positive cells, and one pathway, called Notch, is active in the HER2-negative cells.

As a result, these two populations are sensitive to different drugs: The growth of HER2-positive cells is blocked by chemotherapy as well as a mixture of inhibitors that suppress growth-factor-driven pathways; the HER-negative cell growth is suppressed by Notch inhibitors. The team found that breast tumors, consisting of HER2-positive and -negative populations, grown in mice are effectively suppressed by treating them with a combination of chemotherapy and Notch inhibitors, compared with treating them with either agent alone. Continue Reading

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Podcast Series

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This podcast is a companion to Mass General Cancer Center’s electronic publication, and both are centered around our investigators' recent publications in high-profile journals. Each expert will give you insight into who they are and what inspires them to do what they do every day. A deeper dive into their research will better your understanding of where our experts’ ideas come from, where they will go from here, and what the future has in store in their particular field of research.

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2017 Past Articles

August
July
June

August 2017

Improved Outcomes and Palliative Care

Can palliative care help patients with hematologic malignancies? Download this article

Contributor

  • Areej El-Jawahri, MD

    Program Director, Bone Marrow Transplant Survivorship, Mass General Cancer Center; Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Palliative care, which aims to alleviate symptoms and improve mood for patients with life-threatening illnesses, is increasingly common for individuals with solid tumors in advanced stages. But such care is rarely prescribed for patients with hematologic malignancies, even though standard hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) treatment for such cancers requires some of the highest dose chemotherapy—a course that can result in high symptom burdens and long, taxing hospital stays. Continue Reading


July 2017

Antitumor Immunity and Its Evasion by Tumors

How do tumors evolve to evade the immune response? Download this article

Contributors

  • Nir Hacohen, PhD

    Director, Cancer Immunotherapy at Mass General Cancer Center; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School & Broad Institute

  • Gad Getz, PhD

    Director, Bioinformatics, Mass General Cancer Center and Department of Pathology; Paul C. Zamecnik Chair in Oncology, Mass General Cancer Center; Director, Cancer Genome Computational Analysis, Broad Institute Member, Broad Institute Associate Professor of Pathology, Harvard Medical School

While some patients with cancer mount a strong immune response against their tumors, most have no significant immune response against these invaders. Little is known, however, about what genetic and environmental factors shape an individual tumor’s response to the immune system, or about how the tumor and the immune system interact at a cellular and molecular level. Continue Reading


June 2017

A New Therapeutic Target for Pancreatic Cancer

Can better understanding an epigenetic pathway lead to clues in one of the most lethal cancers? Download this article

Contributor

  • Raul Mostoslavsky, MD, PhD

    Principal Investigator, Mostoslavsky Laboratory, and Kristine and Bob Higgins Mass General Hospital Research Scholar, Mass General Hospital Cancer Center; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) accounts for 90% of all pancreatic cancers, and is one of the most lethal cancers in humans. PDAC is characterized by mutant KRAS, a gene involved in regulating cell division, but little is known about the molecular processes governing initiation, progression and metastasis in PDAC. As a consequence, no good new therapeutic targets have been identified for the cancer in three decades. Despite active research in this field, standard chemotherapy remains the primary treatment available for PDAC, and survival rates are under 5% after a year. Continue Reading

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Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center
55 Fruit Street | LRH 200
Boston, MA 02114

MGHAdvancesinCancer@partners.org

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