Jack and Jane B. Aron Professor
Founding Chair Emeritus
Department of Oncological Sciences
Mount Sinai, Icahn School of Medicine
New York, New York
Working to improve treatment of aggressive breast cancers
Searching for new drug targets in triple negative and inflammatory breast cancers
Testing new approaches that could provide better options for patients with aggressive disease.
Dr. Aaronson's work is focused on identifying biomarkers that may lead to new therapies in several types of aggressive breast cancers. Work in his laboratory led to the discovery that the HER2 gene is the driving factor in about 30 percent of breast cancers, cancers that are now treatable with targeted anti-HER2 therapies.
His current BCRF project is focused on a protein called Wnt and its role in triple negative breast cancer. Dr. Aaronson showed that triple negative breast tumor cells with high Wnt activity are more invasive and survive better than those that do not have high Wnt activity. He is leading ongoing efforts to develop drugs to block the Wnt pathway and stop the growth of triple negative tumor cells. His team recently showed that small molecule Wnt inhibitors also target a growth inhibitory pathway called Hippo, which contributes to some breast cancers. Inhibition of Wnt and Hippo strikingly antagonizes the growth of such breast tumors.
Dr. Aaronson is also interested in how inflammatory breast cancer cells interact with the tumor microenvironment. His group is actively pursuing possible therapeutic strategies to specifically target this aggressive type of breast cancer, while continuing to explore other signaling pathways that contribute to some breast cancers.
Collectively, Dr. Aaronson's research has led to important discoveries in triple negative, HER2-positive, and inflammatory breast cancers that will lead to better diagnostics and treatments for these diseases.
Dr. Aaronson’s research is focused on discovery and functions of cancer genes. At the NCI as Chief, Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology, he identified the first normal function of a cancer gene as that of a growth factor, PDGF, and cloned erbB2 (also designated HER2/neu), a novel growth factor receptor gene he detected as amplified in a human breast carcinoma. This discovery and his subsequent investigations paved the way for diagnostic tests to identify breast cancer patients, who benefit from erbB2-targeted therapies. He discovered KGF (FGF7), a growth factor with novel epithelial cell specificity, now FDA approved for use in the treatment of mucositis, a debilitating side effect of many cancer therapies. His discoveries of other critical components in growth factor signaling pathways and their implications in cancer including erbB3, the alpha PDGF receptor and HGF as the ligand for MET have also led to pre-clinical and clinical development of new agents targeting these molecules in tumors. Dr. Aaronson joined Mount Sinai in 1993 and built a cancer research department, which has grown to more than 25 faculty members. As Founding Chair Emeritus, his research continues to explore new therapeutic targets in breast and other cancers with the goal of translating these advances to patients. Dr. Aaronson is an internationally recognized physician scientist with over 500 publications and over 50 patents. He has trained dozens of investigators, who have gone on to establish careers in major academic centers and biotech/pharma in this country and abroad.