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Michael B. Sporn, MD

Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine
Geisel School of Medicine
Dartmouth College
Hanover, New Hampshire

Current Research

  • Seeking safe and effective drug combinations for breast cancer prevention.
  • Laboratory studies are ongoing to test investigational drugs as potential candidates for effective drug combinations to prevent BRCA-driven breast cancer.
  • These efforts could lead to non-surgical prevention alternatives for women with a high risk of breast cancer.

Chemoprevention–the use of drugs to prevent cancer–has been shown to dramatically reduce the risk of certain breast cancers in women with a high risk of breast cancer or breast cancer recurrence. For individuals with inherited mutations in one of the breast cancer genes, BRCA1 or BRCA2, chemoprevention is currently not an available option. Drs. Sporn and Liby are conducting studies to identify novel drug combinations that can reduce the risk of breast cancer for this high-risk population. 

Full Research Summary

Women with an inherited mutation in the breast cancer genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 are at exceptionally high risk for developing breast cancer. Currently, the only proven preventive strategy for these women is surgical removal of the breasts (bilateral prophylactic mastectomy). Non-invasive, non-surgical alternatives are urgently needed.

One such approach is chemoprevention, which is the use of drugs to prevent cancer formation. Drs. Sporn and Liby are testing multiple novel therapeutic strategies to suppress tumor-promoting immune cells and other growth processes to block tumor growth. These include new formulations of existing drugs such as PARP inhibitors and rexinoids, as well as a new investigational drug called I-BET 762 for preventing breast cancer. 

The research team recently showed that I-BET 762 suppressed cancer promoting immune cells and blocked one of the earliest steps in breast cancer. This year, they will continue to test these drugs with the long-term goal of developing a safe and effective chemopreventive strategy that would reduce the need for prophylactic mastectomy.


Michael B. Sporn received his MD degree at the University of Rochester, and then started a 35-year career at the National Institutes of Health, where he became the Chief of the Laboratory of Chemoprevention in the National Cancer Institute in 1978. In the 1980s his laboratory in Bethesda played a key role in the original discovery of the multifunctional cytokine known transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta). In 1995 he moved to Dartmouth, where he has held an endowed chair as Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine.

He has been a strong advocate for prevention of cancer for many years, and much of his own research has dealt with the development of new drugs to be used as chemopreventive agents. These drugs have included synthetic retinoids and rexinoids (analogs of vitamin A), synthetic deltanoids (analogs of vitamin D), as well as selective estrogen response modulators (SERMs). Most recently he has been focusing on the use of new synthetic triterpenoids as agents for preventing breast and lung cancer and for suppressing inflammation and oxidative stress.

Large Researcher Headshot - Sporn Michael

BCRF Investigator Since


Area(s) of Focus