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William G. Kaelin, Jr., MD

Professor of Medicine
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and
Brigham and Women’s Hospital,
Harvard Medical School
Boston, Massachusetts

Current Research

  • Seeking new targeted approaches to prevent cancer progression and metastasis.
  • Laboratory studies are conducted to identify and test novel drugs in models of triple negative and estrogen receptor positive breast cancers.
  • This research promises to advance breast cancer treatment in novel and innovative ways.

Breast cancers driven by estrogen are well-treated today with drugs like tamoxifen, fulvestrant and aromatase inhibitors. However, some patients can experience a relapse of their breast cancer years after completing their scheduled course of treatment. Dr. Kaelin is conducting laboratory studies to identify better anti-estrogen therapies.

Full Research Summary

Most breast cancers are driven by estrogen. Anti-estrogen drugs, such as tamoxifen and fulvestrant block the estrogen receptor, thus preventing the estrogen-driven tumor growth. Fulvestrant not only inhibits the estrogen receptor (ER) but also causes ER degradation, destroying it on the cancer cells. 

How fulvestrant promotes the degradation of the ER has been a longstanding mystery. Dr. Kaelin’s team is in the process of discovering how, mechanistically, fulvestrant degrades the ER. This knowledge might lead to the development of even better ER degraders and should aid efforts to identify drugs to degrade other proteins that support breast cancer cells.


William G. Kaelin, Jr., MD obtained his undergraduate and MD degrees from Duke University and completed training in internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he served as chief medical resident. He was a clinical fellow in medical oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and later a postdoctoral fellow David Livingston’s laboratory, during which time he was a McDonnell Scholar. A Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator since 1998, Dr. Kaelin is also currently a Professor in the Department of Medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Associate Director, Basic Science, for the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.

Dr. Kaelin is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the American College of Physicians. He recently served on the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors, the AACR Board of Trustees, and the Institute of Medicine National Cancer Policy Board. He is a recipient of the Paul Marks Prize for cancer research from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; the Rosenthal Prize from the AACR; a Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist award; the 2010 Canada International  Gairdner Award; ASCI’s Stanley J. Korsmeyer Award; the Scientific Grand Prix the Foundation Lefoulon-Delalande; the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences, and the Steven C. Beering Award; the 2016 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award; the Katherine Berkan Judd Award;  and the Helis Award.

Large Researcher Headshot - Kaelin William

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Nile Rodgers Award

Area(s) of Focus