The unique strengths of the Center for Cancer Research (CCR) are the exceptional quality of its faculty and the ways in which the CCR's basic scientists collaborate with Mass General’s leading oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, and other health care professionals to advance the frontiers of cancer medicine.
Welcome to the website for the Center for Cancer Research. This center serves as the engine for discovery. We have 41 independent laboratories with faculty drawn from all departments of Harvard Medical School. Our faculty study everything from Cancer cell genetics and epigenetics, metabolism and microenvironments, cell signaling and DNA damage, with studies of cultured cells, all the way to patient derived samples and specimens. I encourage you to visit our website, view all the investigators summaries, look through our news and events, and our current publication highlights.
The 2015 NPLS (May 9th and 10th) will focus on Frontiers in Cancer Research, and cover some of the latest advances in the understanding and treatment of cancer. The conference brings together some of the world’s leading scientists and physicians who have made dramatic breakthroughs in cancer therapy. Massachusetts General Cancer Center Director, Dr. Daniel Haber, is a keynote speaker.
Featured Recent Publications from the Center for Cancer Research [Archive of Past Publications]
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Joshua Black, Johnathan Whetstine, Elnaz Atabaksh
Hypoxia drives transient site-specific copy gain and drug-resistant gene expression.
In this May 2015 paper in Genes & Development co-first authors Joshua Black and Elnaz Atabaksh from Johnathan Whetstine’s lab report that hypoxia drives sites-specific gene copy number gains in normal as well as in tumor cells. This evolutionary conserved response depends on the KDM4A histone demethylase and is blocked by inhibiting this enzyme. CSK1B, implicated in chemotherapy resistance, is among the genes amplified in response to hypoxia.
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Eduardo Reátegui and Shannon Stott
Tunable nanostructured coating for the capture and selective release of viable circulating tumor cells.
In the March 2015 issue of the journal Advanced Materials, Eduardo Reátegui from Shannon Stott’s laboratory describes a stable degradation resistant ultra-thin membrane that can rapidly dissolve under temperature shifts. Use of this membrane in a microfluidic device, the CTC-chip, allows the isolation of rare circulating tumor cells from patient blood, providing a snapshot of a patient’s tumor and bringing us closer to personalized medicine.
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Nabeel Bardeesy and Julien Fitamant
YAP Inhibition Restores Hepatocyte Differentiation in Advanced HCC, Leading to Tumor Regression.
In this March 2015 paper in Cell Reports, Julien Fitamant from Nabeel Bardeesy’s laboratory and colleagues identify the Yap pathway as a novel therapeutic target in liver cancer, the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Main findings include that YAP functions as a rheostat to control hepatocyte differentiation, and that targeting YAP restores cell differentiation and leads to pronounced tumor regression in a mouse model.
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Erin Sennott, Leanne Ahronian and Ryan Corcoran
Clinical acquired resistance to RAF inhibitor combinations in BRAF-mutant colorectal cancer through MAPK pathway alterations.
Drug regimens that include RAF inhibitors show promise in BRAF-mutant colorectal cancer (CRC). In this February 2015 Cancer Discovery paper, shared first authors Erin Sennott and Leanne Ahronian from the labs of Ryan Corcoran and Jeffrey Engelman identified MAPK pathway alterations driving resistance to these regimens, highlighting the critical dependence of BRAF-mutant CRCs on MAPK signaling and suggesting strategies to overcome resistance.
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Lee Zou and Jian Ouyang
Noncovalent Interactions with SUMO and Ubiquitin Orchestrate Distinct Functions of the SLX4 Complex in Genome Maintenance.
In this January 2015 paper published in Molecular Cell, first author Jian Ouyang from Lee Zou’s group analyzed the multifunctional DNA repair protein SLX4. The authors show that the binding of SLX4 to SUMO or ubiquitin promotes its functions in distinct contexts, revealing an intriguing mechanism to orchestrate the context-specific functions of this protein.
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Johnathan Whetstine and Capucine Van Rechem
Lysine Demethylase KDM4A Associates with Translation Machinery and Regulates Protein Synthesis.
In this January 2015 paper published in Cancer Discovery, Capucine Van Rechem and co-workers from Johnathan Whetstine’s laboratory describe an unexpected novel function for the KDM4A lysine demethylase as a regulator of protein translation. In a second paper in the same journal this group also describes a KDM4A coding polymorphism associated with altered sensitivity to mTOR inhibitors.
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Patient-derived models of acquired resistance can identify effective drug combinations for cancer.
In this December 2014 paper in the journal Science a group of authors led by senior investigators Cyril Benes and Jeffrey Engelman describe how combined genetic analysis and pharmacological screening of biopsied drug resistant lung tumors allowed the rapid discovery of drug combinations that overcome resistance. Further refinement of this novel analytical platform could direct therapeutic choices for individual patients.
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Nick Dyson and Wayne Miles
Post-transcriptional gene expression control by NANOS is up-regulated and functionally important in pRb-deficient cells.
In this October 2014 paper published in The EMBO Journal, first author Wayne Miles from Nick Dyson’s group describes a new mechanism that allows cells to cope with loss of the pRb tumor suppressor. pRb is inactivated in most cancers and its loss affects many processes, yet pRb mutant cells have few defects. The authors report that an evolutionary conserved post-transcriptional mechanism involving pRb target NANOS1 allows cells to deal with loss of pRb.