Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center

Boston, Massachusetts
Director, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center
Professor of Oncology,  Harvard Medical School

Research

Dr. Haber is a renowned leader on genetic abnormalities of cancer – from inherited mutations (with familial predisposition) to mutations that are acquired by tumors themselves. With NFCR funding since 2000, his research aims to guide targeted drug therapies.

His current NFCR-supported work focuses on circulating tumor cells (CTCs) that are shed from a primary tumor and metastatic sites and then enter the bloodstream. CTCs are rare in numbers and only a few are lurking between the millions of healthy cells in a standard blood sample.

He and his collaborators developed the CTC-iChip—an advanced micro-engineered device that captures the few CTCs present in a patient’s blood sample. Their research has developed methods to culture viable CTCs to increase their numbers, conduct genetic testing and other tests, which results can dramatically improve treatment and diagnosis for patients with many types of cancers.

The CTC-iChip is already used in some clinical research laboratories and will be submitted for FDA-approval. Oncologists can then use the blood test to obtain results to make timely life-saving treatment decisions for their patients.

CTCs may be present in the bloodstream early in the origin cancer and can lodge within distant organs and remain dormant (resting state), only to be reactivated after many years, giving rise to metastatic cancer. Utilizing the powerful CRISPR gene-editing tool (whose discoverers were awarded a Nobel Prize in 2020), Dr. Haber is identifying the genes in models of metastatic breast cancer that control CTCs’ ability to enter into dormancy and then reactivate. His team has identified one protein that dramatically enhances the metastatic propensity of CTCs. Every single gene in the entire genome is being interrogated in these CRISPR screens.

Dr. Haber’s groundbreaking research on metastatic breast cancer could ultimately develop treatments that target the genes and suppress reactivation of resting cancer cells. Thousands of patients would be given hope that the return of their cancer many years later could be prevented.

Bio

Daniel A. Haber, M.D., Ph.D., is the Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center and a professor of oncology at Harvard Medical School. He received his Bachelor and Master degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and received a M.D. and Ph.D. from Stanford University School of Medicine. Following his schooling, Dr. Haber conducted his postdoctoral training at MIT and joined the Harvard Medical School faculty in 1991 as an assistant professor.

Dr. Haber is most interested in the area of cancer genomics, including the study of circulating tumor cells, the Wilms tumor and genetic predisposition to breast cancer.

In addition to his award with NFCR, Dr. Haber is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Science, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, on the Board of Directors for the American Association for Cancer Research and a member of the Association of American Physicians and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. He is also on the editorial boards of Cell, Cancer Cell, Molecular Cancer Research and Cancer Discovery and has served as genetics editor for the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Haber has been honored with numerous awards such as the inaugural National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Professorship in Basic Cancer Research, a MERIT Award from the National Cancer Institute, the Emil Freireich Award from MD Anderson Cancer Center, Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team Award, a Dream Team Award from the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the Sternlicht Award from Case Western Reserve and the Hinda Rosenthal Award for Translational Research from the AACR.

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