Titles and Affiliations

Julia Dyckman Andrus Professor of Surgery
Director, Vascular Biology Program
Boston Children's Hospital
Harvard Medical School
Boston, Massachusetts

Research area

Understanding and targeting the underlying biology driving breast cancer metastasis.

Impact

Tumors need a steady supply of blood to grow and metastasize to distant sites in the body. Tumors recruit their own blood vessels via a process called angiogenesis—the formation of new capillaries from pre-existing blood vessels. Without the support of this blood supply, a tumor will remain dormant, existing as a tiny lesion of only a few millimeters in diameter, often clinically undetected and doing no harm. This dormant state is recapitulated in metastases as well. However, when influenced by certain cancer-promoting genes and the proteins they encode, dormant tumors can become active and growing. Dr. Moses aims to understand what regulates the genes that stimulate tumor growth and identify molecular differences between dormant and active tumors.

Progress Thus Far

Previously, Dr. Moses and her team established a system to identify potential molecules on the surfaces of cancer cells that can be targeted for therapies. Over the past year, they have made significant progress applying this technology to finding targets for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Dr. Moses has engineered a novel way to optimize drug delivery to directly target genes for TNBC therapy and continues to optimize it and expand this approach. In addition, Dr. Moses has made progress in the area of breast cancer brain metastases, in particular, how cancer cells breach the blood brain barrier (BBB) to form brain metastases. They are utilizing this information to test whether the same mechanism can be used to deliver therapeutics to treat brain metastases. Thus far, the approach was successful in laboratory models.  

What's next

Over the next year, Dr. Moses will continue to study how breast cancer crosses the BBB to gain a deeper understanding of metastasis and how to treat it. Dr. Moses will also continue several other lines of investigation in her lab including developing a way to detect the presence of early stage and advanced brain metastases, discriminating between breast cancer that will metastasize to the brain and that which will not, and the how obesity may awaken dormant tumor cells.

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 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).

BCRF Investigator Since

2008

Donor Recognition

The Hale Family Award