Physician Photo

David B. Sykes, MD, PhD

Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School

  • Phone: 617-724-4000
Department of Medicine


  • Cancer Center
  • Hematology
Clinical Interests
Benign hematology
Myeloproliferative diseases
Thrombosis and hemostasis
Boston: Massachusetts General Hospital
Medical Education
MD, PhD, University of California San Diego Medical School
Residency, Massachusetts General Hospital
Fellowship, Dana Farber Cancer Institute
Board Certifications
Internal Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine
Hematology, American Board of Internal Medicine
Medical Oncology, American Board of Internal Medicine
Foreign Languages
Patient Age Group
Accepting New Patients
Accepting New Patients

BiographyDavid completed his undergraduate training in Biochemistry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. He entered the Medical Scientist Training Program (M.D., Ph.D.) at the University of California San Diego and carried out his Ph.D. research with Dr. Mark Kamps. David did his internship and residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital as well as a year as a Chief Medical Resident in the Department of Internal Medicine. He was a Hematology and Oncology fellow in the combined Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, MGH Cancer Center fellowship program.

David joined the MGH Cancer Center as an attending in benign hematology. He sees patients will all diagnoses with a focus on patients with myeloproliferative disorders.

David's research interests include understanding and identifying new treatments for acute myeloid leukemia. His research is currently being carried out in the lab of Dr. David Scadden.


Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a devastating disease with a5-year survival rate of 25%. One success story has been the discovery of drugswhich trigger differentiation in the 10% of patients with acute promyelocyticleukemia. Differentiation therapies, including all-trans retinoic acid, arewell-tolerated and extremely effective, leading to 5-year survival ratesapproaching 80% in the small subset of patients with acute promyelocyticleukemia. Differentiation therapy is unfortunately not available for theremaining 90% of patients with AML.

HoxA9 is a critical mediator of normal hematopoiesis. Theexpression of HoxA9 is normally downregulated as cells mature along the myeloidlineage. The inappropriate expression of HoxA9 has been demonstrated in themajority (>70%) of AML. Furthermore, those leukemias which contain MLLfusion oncoproteins are dependent upon HoxA9 for their proliferation andsurvival. These observations make HoxA9 and its downstream effectors attractivecandidates for drug targeting. The gene targets of HoxA9 and the mechanism bywhich HoxA9 establishes differentiation arrest in leukemia are not known. 

I am interested in understanding how HoxA9 establishes differentiation arrest in acute myeloid leukemia. Furthermore, I am interested in identifying new compounds which can overcome this differentiation arrest and which will be active in treating human leukemia.


Sykes DB, Schroyens W, O'Connell C. The TEMPI syndrome--a novel multisystemdisease. N Engl J Med. 2011 Aug 4;365(5):475-7.

Sykes DB, Kamps MP. E2a/Pbx1 induces the rapid proliferation of stem cellfactor-dependent murine pro-T cells that cause acute T-lymphoid or myeloidleukemias in mice. Mol Cell Biol. 2004 Feb;24(3):1256-69. Sykes DB, Scheele J, Pasillas M, Kamps MP. Transcriptional profiling duringthe early differentiation of granulocyte and monocyte progenitors controlled byconditional versions of the E2a-Pbx1 oncoprotein. Leuk Lymphoma. 2003Jul;44(7):1187-99. Sykes DB, Kamps MP. Estrogen-regulated conditional oncoproteins: tools toaddress open questions in normal myeloid cell function, normal myeloiddifferentiation, and the genetic basis of differentiation arrest in myeloidleukemia. Leuk Lymphoma. 2003 Jul;44(7):1131-9. Review.

Sykes DB, Kamps MP. Estrogen-dependent E2a/Pbx1 myeloid cell lines exhibitconditional differentiation that can be arrested by other leukemic oncoproteins. Blood. 2001 Oct 15;98(8):2308-18.

Slupsky CM, Sykes DB, Gay GL, Sykes BD. The HoxB1 hexapeptide is a prefolded domain: implications for the Pbx1/Hox interaction. Protein Sci. 2001Jun;10(6):1244-53. Calvo KR, Sykes DB, Pasillas M, Kamps MP. Hoxa9 immortalizes agranulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor-dependent promyelocyte capableof biphenotypic differentiation to neutrophils or macrophages, independent ofenforced meis expression. Mol Cell Biol. 2000 May;20(9):3274-85.

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Phone: 617-724-4000
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