Research Centers


Engelman Lab

Research topics include: lung cancer; targeted therapies; molecular fingerprinting; sensitivity and resistance to targeted therapies, PI3K signaling pathways and EGFR inhibitors in cancer.

Jeffrey A. Engelman, MD, PhD

Director, Center for Thoracic Cancers
Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center

Associate Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School

Research Summary

The overarching aim of research in the Engelman laboratory is to develop new and more effective therapeutic strategies for the treatment of cancer, with a particular emphasis on lung cancer. Cancer therapies are changing from general chemotherapeutic agents to drugs that target specific proteins and signaling pathways (i.e., targeted therapies). Our laboratory aims to understand the biological underpinnings of cancer sensitivity and resistance to this emerging class of therapies. We are particularly interested in the regulation of the PI3K pathway, a signaling network that is crucial for the growth and survival of many epithelial cancers. The ultimate goal of our research is to develop therapies that are more effective and less toxic for patients with cancer.

Read the Engelman Lab's Annual Report in Full

Jeffrey A. Engelman, MD, PhD
Principal InvestigatorGroup Members

  • Hannah Archibald
  • Erin Coffee, PhD
  • Carlotta Costa, PhD 
  • Leila Dardaei, PhD
  • Richard DiCecca
  • Ben Drapkin, MD, PhD
  • Jeffrey Engelman, MD, PhD
  • Luc Friboulet, PhD
  • Rosa Frias
  • Maria Gomez-Caraballo
  • Aaron Hata, MD, PhD
  • Charles Jakubik
  • Anuj Kalsy
  • Nayoon Kim
  • Dana Lee
  • Eugene Lifshits, MD
  • Hillary Mulvey
  • Matthew Niederst, PhD
  • Melissa Parks
  • Sana Raoof
  • Sadhna Vora, MD
  • Zheng Jie Zhong

Research Projects

Targeted therapies
The research goal of my laboratory is to advance targeted therapies to benefit patients with cancer. Our research focuses on understanding the biological underpinnings of sensitivity and resistance to specific kinase inhibitor targeted therapies in cancers with specific genetic abnormalities. In particular, we focus on the regulation of key signaling networks that regulate cancer cell growth and survival, such as the PI3K-AKT and MEK-ERK signaling pathways. We study how perturbation of specific signaling pathways (alone or in combination) impairs cell growth and induces cell death in the context of specific genetic abnormalities. More recently, our research has also begun to focus on how one should model responsiveness to therapies in the laboratory to optimally inform what will occur in the clinic. Our studies encompass biochemistry, molecular biology, cell culture models, mouse models and assessment of clinical specimens. Our laboratory studies encompass established targeted paradigms such as EGFR-, ALK-, and ROS-mutant lung cancers as well as cancers for which no effective targeted therapy currently exists, such as KRAS mutant cancers.

Resistance mechanisms to targeted therapiesALK resistance mutations and gene amplification (red probes) identified in ALK positive lung cancers with acquired resistance to crizotinib.
Unfortunately, clinical experience has taught us that we cannot yet cure even the simple cancers that are addicted to a single kinase. Although targeted therapies are often initially very effective for such cancers, these cancers almost always develop resistance. For example, EGFR-mutant lung cancers that are sensitive to EGFR inhibitors invariably develop resistance, and the same is true for EML4-ALK lung and BRAF-mutant cancers treated with ALK and BRAF inhibitors respectively. Resistance usually develops within one year in each of these cancer paradigms. My laboratory is highly focused on understanding how resistance develops in patients so we can devise strategies to overcome it or thwart its emergence. To understand how resistance to these therapies develops, we culture genetically defined, sensitive cancer cell line models until resistance emerges (in vitro and in vivo). We then use these models to figure out how resistance develops. Using these methodologies, we have discovered resistance mechanisms that occur in patients, and these findings have led to novel therapeutic strategies that are being explored in the clinic. These laboratory efforts leverage complimentary efforts in the clinic in which we actively biopsy tumors from patients upon the development of resistance. These biopsies are interrogated for the resistance mechanisms identified in the laboratory studies. In addition, resistant cancers harvested directly from patients can occasionally be grown as tissue culture models or in mice and are interrogated directly to discover resistance mechanisms and newer, promising therapeutic strategies.

In General 07.20.12

In General awards and honors

Engelman Laboratory

Bldg 149, 13th Street
Charlestown, MA 02129

Phone: 617-724-7298
Fax: 617-724-9648

Research at Mass General

Discover the largest hospital-based research program in the U.S. and how clinicians and scientists chart new terrain in biomedical research to treat and prevent human disease and bring the latest advances to patient care