Awards & Recognition: November 2018

Two HMS researchers received NCI Outstanding Investigator Awards, which supports accomplished leaders in cancer research who are providing significant contributions toward understanding cancer and developing applications that may lead to a breakthrough in biomedical, behavioral or clinical cancer research. The two most recent NCI Outstanding Investigator Award recipients from HMS are:

Xandra Breakefield
Xandra Breakefield

Xandra Breakefield, HMS professor of neurology and a geneticist in radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, involves glioblastoma, which releases extracellular vesicles containing nucleic acids and proteins that convert normal brain cells to tumor supportive cells. Breakefield will explore how tumor extracellular vesicles participate in changing the phenotype of microglia, macrophages and astrocytes in the tumor microenvirons and analyze the microenvironment which sustains the tumor. This research is designed to increase sensitivity and reveal clinical correlates of RNA and protein in extracellular vesicle biomarkers from serum/plasma with the goals of early detection, informing therapeutic decisions and longitudinal evaluation.

Pasi Janne
Pasi Jänne

Pasi Jänne, HMS professor of medicine, director of the Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology and director of the Belfer Center for Applied Cancer Science at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will focus his research on genotype directed precision therapies to combat EGFR mutant or ALK rearranged non- small cell lung cancer, which show favorable response rates and progression free survival compared to chemotherapy. Significant improvements in treatment using precision therapies involve using combination therapies. Jänne will develop combination therapies using dual targeting of EGFR, vertical pathway inhibition and parallel pathway inhibition. He will focus on improving therapies for EGFR inhibitor naïve cancers. The research will inform preclinical approaches to refine treatments and make improvements in the outcome of EGFR mutant and other lung cancer patients.

Gu, Kirschner, Weinstock
From left: Chenghua Gu, Mark Kirschner and David Weinstock


Chenghua Gu, professor of neurobiology at HMS, and Marc Kirschner, the John Franklin Enders University Professor of Systems Biology at HMS, and David Weinstock, HMS associate professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, have been named 2018 Allen Distinguished Investigators by the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group. They will each receive $1.5 million in research support over three years. Weinstock will share his award with biological engineer Scott Manalis of MIT.

Gu, professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, receives the award in recognition of her pioneering work studying the brain vasculature in relation to neuroimmunology, an emerging field that explores the intersection of the nervous and immune systems. 

Kirschner, the John Franklin Enders University Professor of Systems Biology and founding head of the Harvard Medical School Department of Systems Biology, is being recognized for his mold-breaking approaches to studying how cells divide, live and die.
Weinstock, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and attending physician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, studies the molecular origins of cancer and how cells repair their damaged DNA. Weinstock and collaborator, Manilis, are receiving the award for their work into the mechanisms that fuel drug-resistance and propel recurrence in a class of cancers known as lymphomas, which affect various white blood cells.