Charlotte Kuperwasser is director of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Laboratory for the Convergence of Biomedical, Physical and Engineering Sciences and associate professor of Developmental, Molecular & Chemical Biology as well as an investigator at the Molecular Oncology Research Institute (MORI) at Tufts Medical Center. She is known for her major contributions in the study of mammary gland development, breast cancer, stromal-epithelial cell biology, and stem cells. Her team created the first humanized laboratory models to study cancer formation and metastasis and model BRCA1-mutation in humans. In collaboration with David R. Walt (Robinson Professor of Chemistry, Tufts) she has embarked on a landmark project with MIT’s Whitehead Institute to form a new theory of cell plasticity. Her honors include a Whitehead fellowship, the COG/Aventis Young Investigator Award, and a $6.6 million Innovator Award from the Dept. of Defense Breast Cancer Program, with Walt as the principal investigator and Gail E. Sonenshein as co-investigator.
Gail E. Sonenshein, professor of Developmental, Molecular & Chemical Biology, is a leading expert in the molecular signaling pathways of breast cancer, and the complex regulation of oncogenes in cancer cells. She heads an NIH-funded program project group to identify environmental causes of breast cancer. Recent breakthroughs in her lab include a promising new antibody therapy targeting ADAM8, which may provide one of the first therapeutic targets for triple-negative breast cancer. Her team is also exploring mitochondrial DNA and miRNA markers as key indicators of cancer recurrence with colleagues Kuperwasser and Walt.
Long-time faculty members Ana Soto and Carlos Sonnenschein have earned international acclaim for their pioneering studies of endocrine disruption and the role of sex hormones in cancer. They were the first to identify bisphenol A (BPA), one of the most prevalent carcinogens in the industrialized world, as a cause of mammary cancer. Their book The Society of Cells introduced tissue field organization theory, a groundshifting concept that has been called “a new theory of cancer.” During their 40-year collaboration, Soto and Sonnenschein have received some of the most prestigious honors in science, including the Blaise Pascal Chair at the École Normale Superieure (Soto), as well as funding from the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, and Breast Cancer Fund.
Amy Yee, professor of Developmental, Molecular & Chemical Biology, is exploring new therapeutic strategies for the deadliest forms of breast cancer, including triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and inflammatory breast cancer, for which there are currently no targeted treatments. Yee’s work has established direct clinical links between several unique modulators, including the protein HBP1 and EGCG, a compound found in green tea (with colleague Sonenshein). Yee’s team has recently performed a whole genome analysis of TNBC tissue samples revealing key changes in several hundred genes—insights that may lead to the identification of new drug targets.
Phil Hinds is chair and professor of Developmental, Molecular & Chemical Biology (DMCB), and professor of radiation oncology at MORI (Tufts MC). A former fellow at MIT’s prestigious Whitehead Institute, Hinds has dedicated his career to exploring the molecular origins of cancer, including close study of cell cycle control pathways in differentiation and cancer, with the goal of developing therapeutics targeted to the most critical cells of a tumor. Currently his lab is focused on explorations of the G1 cell cycle machinery and the retinoblastoma protein in both normal progenitor cells and tumor stem cells. Genetic models of breast cancer created in the Hinds lab have been instrumental in identifying the cell cycle kinases Cdk4 and Cdk6 as important targets for new therapeutics, now in phase three clinical trials sponsored by major pharmaceutical companies. As chair of the newly formed DMCB department, Hinds is shaping TUSM as an ideal setting for advancing world-class cancer research.