Fisher Lab

Our group studies cell death/proliferation signals in relation to development and disease, particularly in cancer of pigment cells (melanoma) and tumors of childhood. We attempt to understand critical modes of cell homeostasis with a goal of molecular targeted therapy as well as prevention of melanoma and other human cancers


Lesions for Malignancy from Normal Development

We study biology of melanocytes as a means of identifying pathways which drive melanoma in man. This includes examination of mechanisms underlying growth/survival of benign moles, most of which contain mutations in either BRAF or N-Ras oncogenes. We also study melanocyte death in hair follicles, a process associated with hair graying. Pathways were identified which link graying to melanocyte and melanoma survival, offering potential leads for novel therapies. Other studies focus on pathways modulating melanocytic responses to environmental cues and employ oncogene-transformed melanocytic lines which exhibit growth factor independence, mimicking human melanoma in a genetically controlled manner.

Control of Life and Death in Melanoma

Malignant transformation of melanocytes produces one of the most treatment resistant malignancies in man. We have identified a transcriptional network which regulates melanoma cell survival and proliferation as well as melanocyte differentiation during development. Using diverse methods including mouse models, human tumor expression arrays and cellular assays, we examine mechanisms through which melanoma cells evade death, with the goal of improving therapy. Studies include preclinical and clinical analyses of novel melanoma treatments. We also study the role of UV in pigmentation responses and carcinogenesis, since this potentially offers novel approaches to skin cancer prevention.

MITF Transcription Factor Family In Development and Cancer

Mitf is a helix-loop-helix factor homologous to Myc, whose mutation in man produces absence of melanocytes. MITF acts as a master regulator of melanocyte development and is targeted by several critical signaling pathways. Recently, members of the Mitf family have been discovered as oncogenes in a variety of human malignancies, particularly sarcomas of childhood. Their roles in cancer as well as strategies to target them therapeutically are under active investigation. Detailed mechanistic studies focus on transcription factor interactions with chromatin, particularly positioned nucleosomes.

Contact: 617-643-5428

Group Members


Pedro Andreu-Perez, PhD

Hongxian Chen, MD, PhD 

Jun Dai, PhD

David E. Fisher, MD, PhD 

Adam Friedman, MD, PhD

Jessica Fuller

Rizwan  Haq, MD PhD 

Leeza Hargreaves 

Jennifer Hsiao 

Vivien Igras

Akinori Kawakami, MD, PhD

Daniel Kim 

Ju Hee Lee, MD, PhD 

Jue Judy Liu 

Jennifer Lo 

Ryo Murakami, PhD 

Katey Robinson 

Elisabeth Roider, MD 


Whitney Silkworth


Thanh Nga Tran, MD, PhD 

Christina Weng 


Chong Hyun Won, MD PhD

Ying Qi Zhang








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