Titles and Affiliations

Professor of Oncology and Medicine
Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

Research area

Understanding how communication between breast cancer cells and non-cancer cells contributes to tumor progression and metastasis.


The majority of deaths related to breast cancer are caused by breast cancer that has spread to other organs—a process called metastasis—making it imperative to identify better means of combating or preventing this from occurring. In pursuit of new therapeutic targets, many researchers have looked beyond the tumor cells themselves to study the tumor microenvironment—the non-cancerous cells and structures that can support tumor growth and progression. Dr. Lippman and his team study cells in the tumor microenvironment known as cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). Their studies showed that CAFs “educate" breast cancer cells to permanently exhibit more aggressive and metastatic behavior, and that CAFs can enter the bloodstream, alone or clustered with tumor cells, and survive in distant organs (following the same path as a metastatic tumor cell). Results of this work may ultimately lead to the development of new treatments that will improve survival for breast cancer patients.   

Progress Thus Far

The team recently found that CAFs are heterogenous: CAFs derived from different breast tumors exhibit varying levels of ability to promote tumor growth, metastasis, and stem cell-like behaviors. This will be important to consider when designing CAF-targeting therapies, as they may not have the same effect in every patient. In separate studies, the team also identified a potential signaling pathway through which CAFs affect tumors cells, which could eventually be targeted by a therapy. 

What’s next

The work of Dr. Lippman’s and other groups found that the RAGE signaling pathway is a highly attractive therapeutic target, as it affects both tumor cells and the numerous cells surrounding the tumor—including CAFs and immune cells—that are critical for tumor progression and metastasis. Early-stage experimental therapeutics that target RAGE signaling are available, and in the coming year the team will evaluate the effects of RAGE inhibitors combined with other therapy.  


Marc E. Lippman, MD, MACP FRCP is a professor of Oncology and co-directs the breast cancer program at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University. Prior to that he was the Kathleen and Stanley Glaser Professor of Medicine at the University of Miami Leonard School of Medicine, and was Chairman of the Department of Medicine from May 2007 to May 2012 and Deputy Director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Previously Dr. Lippman was the John G. Searle Professor and Chair of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan. From 1988 through 1999 he was Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology and Chair, Department of Oncology, at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and served as Director of the Lombardi Cancer Center. Dr. Lippman served as Head of the Medical Breast Cancer Section, Medicine Branch, at the NIH. He completed a Fellowship in Endocrinology at Yale Medical School from 1973-1974. He was Clinical Associate at the NCI from 1970-1971 and Clinical Associate at the Laboratory of Biochemistry of the NCI. From 1970-1988 he served as an Officer and Medical Director of the United States Public Health Service. Dr. Lippman completed his residency on the Osler Medical Service, John Hopkins University Hospital from 1968-1970. He has received numerous awards including Clinical Investigator Award, American Federation for Clinical Research in 1985; Transatlantic Medal and Lecture, British Endocrine Societies, 1989; the Astwood Award, Endocrine Society, 1991; the Bernard Fisher Award, University of Pittsburgh in 1991; the AACR Rosenthal Award in April 1994, and the Brinker Award for Basic Science of the Komen Foundation in 1994.