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Marsha A. Moses, PhD
Julia Dyckman Andrus Professor of Surgery
Director, Vascular Biology Program
Boston Children's Hospital
Harvard Medical School
- Seeking to identify and target the cancer promoting genes to prevent breast cancer recurrence and metastasis.
- Laboratory studies are conducted to identify biomarkers that can alert doctors when dormant tumor cells become active so that interventions can be employed to prevent breast cancer recurrence.
- These studies will provide clues on how to prevent tumor cells from hiding and forming new tumors years later.
Tumor dormancy is a state of quiescence that can exist for years. The phenomenon is not well understood, nor are the events that cause the awakening of the tumor, which can lead to new tumor formation. Dr. Moses is conducting a series of laboratory studies to understand this process, identify targets to prevent new tumor growth, and identify molecular markers that can act as signals during tumor growth.
Full Research Summary
In order for a small breast tumor to establish itself, grow and spread to other tissues–a process called metastasis, it must build its own blood vessels via the process of angiogenesis–new capillary formation from pre-existing blood vessels. In the absence of angiogenesis, a tumor will remain dormant, existing as a tiny lesion of only a few millimeters in diameter, often clinically undetected and doing no harm-essentially "cancer without disease". This state commonly precedes metastatic breast cancer.
Under the influence of certain genes, the tumor can escape the dormant state to become an active, growing one. One of Dr. Moses’ research goals is to identify and target these genes and the proteins that they encode with the intention of treating these early breast cancer lesions, as well as their metastases, before they become harmful.
Her team is also working to discover noninvasive biomarkers that signal this escape from tumor dormancy as well as of other stages of breast cancer. Their work in this area has led to the identification and validation of a number of novel urinary proteins that can detect the presence of breast cancer, its progression and metastasis and the presence of risk marker lesions.
To complement these studies, Dr. Moses has begun work on new drug delivery systems to specifically target triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) based on therapeutic targets identified by her group and others.
Dr. Marsha A. Moses is the Julia Dyckman Andrus Professor at Harvard Medical School and the Director of the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children's Hospital. She has made significant contributions to our understanding of the biochemical and molecular mechanisms that underlie the regulation of tumor growth and progression. Dr. Moses and her laboratory have discovered a number of inhibitors of neovascularization that function at both the transcriptional and translational level some of which are being developed for potential clinical use in a variety of human diseases. Named a pioneer in the field of Biomarker Medicine by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Moses established a Proteomics Initiative in her laboratory to complement this work which has led to the discovery of panels of noninvasive urinary cancer biomarkers that can predict disease status and stage in cancer patients and that are sensitive and accurate markers of disease progression and therapeutic efficacy of cancer drugs. To complement these studies, she created a Proteomics Initiative at Boston Children’s Hospital and has utilized its resources, including an extensive human biorepository and her significant expertise in proteomics, to discover and validate a number of novel, non-invasive, urinary biomarkers for a variety of human cancers as well as non-neoplastic diseases. A number of these biomarkers are being used in clinical trials. To complement her basic and translational findings, she and her team have engineered novel non-toxic, targeted nanomedicines for the treatment of human cancers and their metastases. These drug delivery systems are engineered to deliver a variety of therapeutic agents including siRNAs, chemotherapies and gene editing systems. A number of these diagnostics and potential therapeutics are included in Dr. Moses’ significant patent portfolio composed of both US and foreign patents.
Dr. Moses’ basic and translational work has been published in such journals as Science, The New England Journal of Medicine, Cell, and Nature Communications, among others. Marsha received a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Boston University and completed a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship at Boston Children's Hospital and MIT in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Langer. She is the recipient of a number of NIH and foundation grants and awards. Dr. Moses has been recognized with both of Harvard Medical School's mentoring awards, the A. Clifford Barger Mentoring Award (2003) and the Joseph B. Martin Dean’s Leadership Award for the Advancement of Women Faculty (2009). In 2014, she received the Excellence in Mentoring Award from the Postdoc Association of Boston Children’s Hospital and in 2016, she received their award for Exceptional Mentorship. In 2013, Dr. Moses received the Honorary Member Mentoring Award from the Association of Women Surgeons of the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Moses was elected to the Institute of Medicine (National Academy of Medicine) of the National Academies of the United States in 2008, the National Academy of Inventors in 2013 and the American Institute for Molecular and Biological Engineering in 2018.