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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
Boston, Massachusetts

Current Research

Goal: To identify the genes that drive tumor development and growth and develop preventive strategies.

Impact: Dr. Moses is studying how dormant tumor cells – cells that survive treatment and lie sleeping in the body – become active and spread, a process enabled by certain genes and proteins. Her work could lead to new strategies for preventing breast cancer recurrence.

What’s next: She and her colleagues will continue to search for biomarkers that can act as a signal when dormant tumor cells have been activated. They are also developing new drug delivery systems that targets triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), a particularly aggressive subtype of breast cancer.

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 both the genes and proteins that activate sleeping tumor cells and 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 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 the understanding of the mechanisms underlying breast tumor development and progression and can be used to identify new biomarkers and develop new breast cancer therapies.

Current research: She and her colleagues are studying genes and their proteins that allow a dormant tumor cell to become active. They are working to further identify noninvasive biomarkers that play a role in the escape of tumor cells from dormancy. In addition, they are developing novel non-toxic drug delivery systems to specifically target the identified biomarkers in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients.

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 identified and validated 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 on a novel drug delivery system to specifically target TNBC incorporating findings from her current studies. Dr. Moses will also utilize the newly discovered biomarkers to non-invasively and continuously monitor drug response and inform prognosis.

Biography

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.

Large Researcher Headshot - Moses Marsha

BCRF Investigator Since

2008

Donor Recognition

The Hale Family Award