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Lewis C. Cantley, PhD

Director, Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center,
Ronald P. Stanton Clinical Cancer Program at New York-Presbyterian
Margaret and Herman Sokol Professor in Oncology Research
Professor of Cancer Biology in Medicine
Weill Cornell Medical College
New York, New York

Current Research

Goal: To understand how cellular signals alter breast cancer growth and response to therapy.   

Impact: Recently, P13K inhibitors have been used for treatment of metastatic breast cancer but their effectiveness has been limited. Tumor cells have been shown to activate other means of growth that can render PI3K inhibitors ineffective. Dr. Cantley is studying a mechanism of resistance to these drugs in order to develop new ways to overcome resistance and improve treatment outcomes for metastatic breast cancer patients.

What’s next: He and his team will continue to broaden our understanding of the PI3K pathway by focusing on the regulation of PI3K and its role in modulating breast cancer phenotypes and responses to therapy.

PI3K inhibitors are a promising type of targeted therapy for breast cancer. However, tumor cells can develop resistance to these drugs, limiting their benefit. Dr. Cantley is pursuing new approaches that may enhance the effectiveness of these drugs and overcoming resistance.

Full Research Summary

Research area: Understanding how cellular machines called protein kinases affect breast cancer growth to identify ways to enhance the effectiveness of targeted cancer therapies.

Impact: Dr. Cantley was the first to discover a protein called PI3K which is the most frequently mutated protein known to cause breast cancer. Recently, the PI3K inhibitor alpelisib has been approved for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. However, patients can have limited responses to P13K-inhibitor or develop resistance — this necessitates the development of rational new treatment strategies. Dr. Cantley is determining new methods to target P13K to develop novel combinations of therapies to treat metastatic breast cancer.  

Current investigation: Dr. Cantley is examining the protein phosphorylation of PI3K and its downstream function in breast cancer models to identify novel therapeutic strategies for breast cancer patients.

What he’s learned so far: He has discovered two separate protein kinases that can directly modify PI3K, turning PI3K off or on. To understand the role of these protein kinases in breast cancer growth and metastasis, Dr. Cantley and his colleagues have engineered breast cancer laboratory models of brain metastases. 

What’s next: He and his team will continue to investigate the PI3K pathway by focusing on the phospho-regulation of PI3K by protein kinases and the role it plays in breast cancer growth and responses to therapy. They will utilize patient-derived breast cancer cells grown in culture and in three-dimension to identify novel combination therapies with PI3K inhibitors for treatment of metastatic breast cancer.


Lewis C. Cantley, PhD, is the Margaret and Herman Sokol Professor and Meyer Director of the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medical College/Ronald P. Stanton Clinical Cancer Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Cantley grew up in West Virginia and graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 1971. He obtained a PhD in biophysical chemistry from Cornell University in 1975 and did postdoctoral training at Harvard University. Prior to taking the position at Weill Cornell, he taught and did research in biochemistry, physiology and cancer biology in Boston, most recently at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School. His laboratory discovered the PI 3-Kinase pathway that plays a critical role in insulin signaling and in cancers.

Dr. Cantley was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2014, to the National Academy of Sciences in 2001 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999. Among his other awards are the ASBMB Avanti Award for Lipid Research in 1998, the Heinrich Wieland Preis for Lipid Research in 2000, the Caledonian Prize from the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2002, the 2005 Pezcoller Foundation–AACR International Award for Cancer Research, the 2009 Rolf Luft Award for Diabetes and Endocrinology Research from the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, the 2011 Pasrow Prize for Cancer Research, the 2013 Breakthrough in Life Sciences Prize and the 2013 Jacobaeus Prize for Diabetes Research from the Karolinska Institute and the 2015 AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship.

Grid Researcher Headshot - Cantley L

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Estée Lauder Companies' Employee Fundraising Award

Area(s) of Focus