Titles and Affiliations

Member, Department of Cell Biology and Genetics

Research area

Discovering new therapeutic targets to treat aggressive breast cancers.


Metastatic breast cancer (MBC), which is breast cancer that has spread to other sites in the body, is incurable and is the leading cause of breast cancer deaths. New treatment strategies are urgently needed that can prevent metastasis from occurring. Dr. Benezra’s work is focused on a novel targeted therapy called AGX51 that has been shown to block tumor growth and metastasis in laboratory studies. His work could inform the development of a new class of well-tolerated, anti-metastatic drugs.

Progress Thus Far

Dr. Benezra has made significant progress in identifying how AGX51 works against a key target that is involved in the development and progression of breast cancer. He has discovered that AGX51 kills breast cancer cells through the production of fat-containing molecules called lipids that are toxic to cancer cells but spare normal, healthy tissue. In addition, he and his team have made progress in identifying how certain types of breast cancers can go dormant and escape conventional therapies, ultimately leading to recurrence.

What's next

In the upcoming year, Dr. Benezra will learn more about the lipids that kill cancer cells in response to AGX51. In addition, he is planning to identify markers in cancer stem cells found in multiple cancer types, including triple-negative breast cancer, and to how they function to mediate cancer cell dormancy and drug resistance. Finally, Dr. Benezra hopes to move the AGX51 family of clinical candidates closer to early-phase clinical trials with the help of a grant that he was awarded this year as a result of progress made with BCRF support.

If not for BCRF, I never would have been able to make the transition from basic scientist to drug developer and have the chance to ready a novel therapy for clinical application. — Dr. Benezra


Robert Benezra, PhD, is a Member at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer in the Department of Cell Biology and a Professor of Biology at Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences in New York City. As a postdoctoral fellow he identified the Id proteins as dominant negative regulators of the helix-loop-helix protein family and has since gone on to identify these proteins as key regulators of tumor growth, angiogenesis and metastasis. In addition, while at Sloan Kettering, Benezra and his colleagues identified the first human mitotic checkpoint gene, hsMad2, and demonstrated that its deregulation leads to chromosome instability, tumor progression and drug resistance. His program continues to focus on the molecular basis of tumor angiogenesis, tumor instability and metastasis. His current project supported by BCRF is to explore the therapeutic potential of a novel agent targeting the Id proteins for the treatment of aggressive triple negative breast cancers.

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Play for P.I.N.K. Award in Memory of Doris L. Mortman

Areas of Focus