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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
Goal: To identify the mechanisms that drive tumor development and progression and to leverage this information to develop novel, non-toxic therapeutics and diagnostics for detecting and treating aggressive breast cancer.
Impact: Dr. Moses’ research is identifying specific proteins on the surface of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells that the lab is using to target the delivery of cancer drugs and other therapies for this disease. She and her team have also identified and are validating a number of non-invasive biomarkers for breast cancer that can be used to complement these therapies.
What’s next: She and her laboratory are working to test these potential targeted therapies for TNBC, a particularly aggressive subtype of breast cancer, in animal models of this disease and are developing novel drug delivery systems to deliver therapies including chemotherapy, siRNA and gene editing systems to the TNBC cells.
Dr. Moses and her team are also working to understand and target tumor dormancy. Even when treatment eliminates any detectable cancer, some cancer cells escape the effects of treatment and lie dormant and undetectable in the body. Eventually, these tiny lesions of cancer can break out of their dormant state and become active, causing recurrence in the breast or other sites in the body. Dr. Moses aims to identify the activators of these sleeping tumor cells and develop biomarkers that signal tumor cell re-awakening.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Understanding the mechanisms underlying breast tumor development and progression with the goal of developing effective, non-toxic, targeted therapeutics, diagnostics and prognostics.
Impact: In order for a small breast tumor to establish itself, grow and metastasize, it must recruit its own blood vessels via the process called angiogenesis. In the absence of angiogenesis, a tumor will remain dormant and, often, clinically undetected. Dr. Moses is conducting studies to identify and target the genes and their proteins that regulate these processes. The information she obtains from these studies will enhance our understanding of the mechanisms underlying breast tumor development and progression and can be used to develop new breast cancer therapeutics and diagnostics.
Current research: Dr. Moses and her colleagues are developing non-toxic targeted therapies for TNBC. They are also working to identify and validate noninvasive biomarkers that can serve as sentinels of the presence of breast cancer and to monitor the effectiveness of breast cancer therapies.
What she’s learned so far: Dr. Moses and her team have made significant progress in understanding the mechanisms underlying breast tumor development and progression. They have used this information to engineer new, non-toxic drug delivery systems for TNBC and they have identified and are validating a number of noninvasive biomarkers that can be used to detect the presence of breast cancer, its progression and metastasis.
What’s next: Her research team will continue their work to engineer non-toxic drug delivery systems that can specifically target TNBC, incorporating findings from her current studies. Dr. Moses will also utilize the newly discovered biomarkers for their ability to non-invasively and continuously monitor drug response and inform prognosis
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 development and progression. Dr. Moses and her laboratory have discovered several inhibitors of these processes that function at both the transcriptional and translational level, some of which are being developed for potential clinical use. Named a pioneer in the field of Biomarker Medicine by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, she created a Proteomics Initiative at Boston Children’s Hospital, utilized its resources including an extensive human biorepository and leveraged her significant expertise in proteomics, to discover and validate a number of novel, non-invasive biomarkers for a variety of human cancers including breast cancer. A number of these biomarkers are being used in clinical trials. Recently, she and her team have engineered novel non-toxic, targeted nanomedicines for the treatment of triple negative breast cancer. These 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.
Dr. Moses completed a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship at Boston Children's Hospital and MIT in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Langer. Marsha has received 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). She received the Excellence in Mentoring Award from the Postdoc Association of Boston Children’s Hospital (2014) and their award for Exceptional Mentorship (2016). She also received the Honorary Member Mentoring Award from the Association of Women Surgeons of the American College of Surgeons (2013). Dr. Moses was elected to the Institute of Medicine (National Academy of Medicine) of the National Academies of the United States (2008), the National Academy of Inventors (2013),the American Institute for Molecular and Biological Engineering (2018) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2019).