Titles and Affiliations

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

Research area

Understanding how cellular signals alter breast cancer growth and response to therapy and identifying ways to enhance the effectiveness of targeted cancer therapies. 

Impact

Dr. Cantley was the first to discover PI3K, a protein controlled by PIK3CA, the most frequently mutated gene in breast cancer. Recently, the P13K inhibitor, alpelisib, has been approved for treating metastatic breast cancer but its effectiveness has been limited, because tumor cells can activate other growth pathways to counter the effects of alpelisib. Dr. Cantley is studying the mechanism of resistance to these drugs in order to develop new ways to improve treatment outcomes for metastatic breast cancer patients. 

Progress Thus Far

To understand the role of these protein kinases in breast cancer growth and metastasis, Dr. Cantley and his colleagues have engineered laboratory models of breast cancer brain metastases.  Through utilization of these models, they have discovered two separate protein kinases that can directly modify PI3K. In addition, the team has identified a specific site on the P13K protein that can be targeted to inhibit P13K signaling. This finding may help identify new ways to target PI3K to treat metastatic breast cancer. 

What’s next

In addition to their ongoing studies, Dr. Cantley and his team will also pursue a new line of investigation into tumors with BRCA1 mutations (the most common mutation found in hereditary breast cancers) and other aggressive and hard-to-treat tumors. They will investigate whether high doses of the B-vitamin, folate, and vitamin C can be used to selectively kill BRCA1-deficient breast cancer cells. This line of research is inspired by the discovery that folate can generate formaldehyde, a toxin that promotes cell death in BRCA1-deficient cells, and the discovery that vitamin C can kill cancer cells by triggering the accumulation of other toxins.

Biography

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.

BCRF Investigator Since

2009

Areas of Focus