Cancer Program


  • Tumor Microenvironment PO1
  • PDAC PO1
  • Molecular Imaging Center P50
  • Cancer Nanotechnology U54
  • SAIRP U24
  • GI Spore

The Cancer Program brings together a scientific community focused on understanding in vivo cancer biology at the systems level and applying this knowledge to early cancer detection and therapy assessment. Program members work within CSB, the MGH Cancer Center and/or other MGH laboratories. Strong collaborations exist also with the MIT Center for Cancer Research, the Harvard Cancer Center and the Broad Institute. Currently, major areas of interest include:

Early cancer detection and innovative diagnostics

Detection of stage I cancers is associated with >90% 5-year survival rate, and treatment is often curative. This program defines molecular and cellular alterations that signal the presence of (pre)cancers and develops novel diagnostic platforms such as endoscopic fiber-optic microscopy for noninvasive in vivo screens.

Drug efficacy

Todays molecularly targeted therapeutics often dictate objective efficacy read-outs as these therapeutics are often costly, only work well in subgroups of patients and so those associated toxicity in non-target populations can be minimized. This program develops and tests novel read-outs of emerging therapeutics. Another aspect of this program is the development of nanotechnology–based diagnostic and therapeutic (‘theranostic’) agents.

Pathway analysis

The key role played by kinases in the vast majority of cancer suggests that specific inhibitors whose disposition could be ascertained in vivo would be useful in biological research and, potentially, for imaging kinase acitivity in a clinical setting. The program uses novel tools to identify kinase and other molecular signatures in cancer cells, and to interrogate the effects of anti-kinases and other drugs on these pathways.

Recent Publications (more...)

Flavahan WA, Gaskell E, Bernstein BE
Epigenetic plasticity and the hallmarks of cancer.
Science. 2017;357(6348):ePub - PMID: 28729483
Miller TE, Liau BB, Wallace LC, Morton AR, Xie Q, Dixit D, Factor DC, Kim LJY, Morrow JJ, Wu Q, Mack SC, Hubert CG, Gillespie SM, Flavahan WA, Hoffmann T, Thummalapalli R, Hemann MT, Paddison PJ, Horbinski CM, Zuber J, Scacheri PC, Bernstein BE, Tesar PJ, Rich JN
Transcription elongation factors represent in vivo cancer dependencies in glioblastoma.
Nature. 2017;547(7663):355-359 - PMID: 28678782
Miller MA, Weissleder R
Imaging of anticancer drug action in single cells
Nat Rev Cancer. 2017;17:399–414
Im H, Lee K, Weissleder R, Lee H, Castro C
Novel Nanosensing Technologies for Exosome Detection and Profiling
Lab Chip. 2017;:ePub

Recent News (more...)

2017-06-05: CSB work is profiled in MGH Research Institute spotlight "Mass General Researchers Investigate the ‘Big Eaters’ of the Immune System: #MacrophageMonday"
2016-10-07: Divya Pathania, PhD was selected to receive Translational Research Award for Lymphoma-D3 project at MGH Clinical Research Day. Congratulations, Divya!
2016-03-21: An immune cell that protects against cancer. Macrophages are mostly viewed as tumor-promoting cells. They can infiltrate solid tumors in high numbers, and their presence at the tumor site is often associated with decreased patient survival. However, much less is known about macrophages located outside the tumor stroma. Mikael Pittet and colleagues now show that a population of lymph node macrophages, called subcapsular sinus (SCS) macrophages, unexpectedly protects against melanoma. The study was published in Science on March 17, 2016 and is available for download.
2016-02-16: A recipe to improve cancer immunotherapy. Novel immune checkpoint blockade therapies can be extraordinarily effective but may benefit only the minority of patients whose tumors are pre-infiltrated by antitumor immune cells called CD8+ T cells. In a study published in Immunity, the Pittet lab at MGH Center for Systems Biology reports that rationally selected immunogenic chemotherapy can convert tumor microenvironments lacking T cells into ones displaying antitumor T cell immunity. This process makes unresponsive tumors sensitive to immune checkpoint blockade therapies and consequently raises hope to feasibly expand the proportion of human cancers responding to these therapies.
2015-12-02: Memorial Sloan Kettering has named Bradley E. Bernstein as a recipient of this year’s Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research. The award recognizes promising investigators aged 45 or younger for their efforts in advancing cancer research. Congratulations, Brad!