Basic & Translational Research Opportunities

The optimal training for a career that will encompass both funded research and clinical service is to combine the required two-and-a-half years of AP or CP clinical training with a two - or three-year fellowship in basic or translational research. The department aims to encourage, mentor and support trainees committed to this career path through the Specialized Pathologist-Laboratory Investigator (SP-LIT) Program.

Residents interested in laboratory research consult with Dr. David Louis or Dr. Matthew Frosch early in their training to obtain advice on selecting a laboratory and a research mentor. Research may be done in any of the Pathology Department research laboratories, in other laboratories at Mass General, Harvard, or M.I.T. They work with the mentor to develop a research plan and typically apply for an individual NIH fellowship. Research may begin after two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half years of AP, CP or AP/CP training; a program can also be developed to include training in one of the departmental ACGME-accredited subspecialty fellowship programs.

Residents are supported by the departmental NIH T32 Training Grant (several positions) or individual fellowships. Residents and fellows regularly present their research results at national and international meetings and publish their studies in respected peer-reviewed journals, e.g., Cell, Science, Nature, Cancer Cell, Developmental Cell, Molecular Cell, Nature Genetics, Current Biology and PNAS. The Molecular Pathology and Research (MPR) Conference provides weekly updates on research issues, particularly those that relate to pathology. Pathology Grand Rounds highlights the research opportunities at Mass General and at other institutions by visiting faculty.

Research Facilities

The department is currently in the process of major expansion of its research space and program. The department has over 20,000 square feet of research laboratory space, primarily divided among two major facilities in MGH-East/Lawrence A. Martin Research Laboratories in Charlestown (10 minutes by shuttle bus) and the Simches building on the main Mass General campus. The department is currently expanding its research portfolio extensively, with over 10,000 square feet of research space slated to be filled with new scientific recruits over the next few years. The laboratories are well-equipped for molecular, biochemical, animal modeling, genomic, immunological and ultrastructural studies. Current Pathology research is supported by an annual budget of over $10 million in research and training grants, principally from the NIH, awarded to members of the department. The program is expanding rapidly, with a number of new RO1-level grants over the past two years alone. The research faculty now includes over 20 faculty and numerous postdoctoral fellows. Additional clinical investigations are carried out in the Anatomic and Clinical Pathology units of the department.

Primary Research Interests

Major areas of investigation include the molecular pathogenesis of neoplasia, including clinical-pathologic correlation, molecular genetics, and cell biology of malignant lymphomas, breast cancer and CNS tumors; the classification and evaluation of prognostic factors in breast cancer, ovarian carcinoma, lymphoproliferative diseases, bladder cancer, pulmonary tumors, bone and soft tissue malignancies, and malignant melanomas; oncogene expression and flow cytometric analysis of human tumors; immunological mechanisms in diseases of the kidney and gastrointestinal tract; the pathogenesis and therapy of allograft rejection; T cell differentiation pathways; function of adhesion molecules, and other T cell surface components; the biologic function of dendritic cells, Kupffer cells, and alveolar macrophages; lipid metabolism in platelets; ethanol induced esterification; biology of cell junctions; the use of molecular biological probes to study human disease (in situ hybridization, polymerase chain reaction, laser capture microdissection, expression array analysis); cell biology of lung cells and accessory cell function of dendritic cells; molecular etiology and pathogenesis of Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases. These programs often involve collaborative research with investigators in other departments at the Mass General, Harvard Medical School or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Clinicopathologic Research

Residents are presented with numerous opportunities for clinically oriented and translational research in all fields of pathology, as they work and learn with our staff of sub-specialized academic pathologists; our program strongly encourages residents to be involved in such projects. Often such involvement arises in the context of clinical cases encountered in the course of clinical training. Alternatively, a resident may be approached by a staff pathologist who has a project that seems to correspond to an area of mutual interest. Residents are frequently the driving force behind such projects and deservedly become the primary investigators. They work closely with the staff member in discussing the goals of the project, aggregating the materials and developing the methods, reviewing the findings and drawing the conclusions that will lead to the final manuscript. In many instances, these projects are presented as a platform or poster by the resident at national or international meetings and often result in publications in highly regarded, peer-reviewed journals. Many of these publications involve collaborations with other departments within Mass General and at other institutions. Senior residents and fellows have been presenters and authors in the Case Records of the Mass General, which are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.