Harvard Medical School and
Massachusetts General Hospital
Boston, Massachusetts

Assistant Professor of Medicine
Assistant Physician

Research Projects

Dr. Aaron Hata is a physician-scientist in the field of targeted molecular cancer therapy. The overall goal of his research is to improve the efficacy of targeted therapies for lung cancer. His research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms of drug sensitivity and resistance in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

With NFCR support, Dr. Hata is collaborating with thoracic oncologist, Dr. Jessica Lin at Harvard, to improve the care of patients with mutations in the ALK gene (called ALK positive or ALK+.)

ALK+ patients eventually experience drug resistance to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd line therapies called tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI). In addition, other ALK-independent pathways in the cancer cells can begin to signal abnormal growth. Thus, the ability to match each patient with the therapy that is most likely to be effective remains a significant challenge.

To identify the major ‘driver’ of ALK-independent resistance in most ALK+ NSCLC patients, Drs. Hata and Lin are using an innovative gene expression technology called ‘digital spatial profiling’ that combines powerful gene expression profiling with spatial resolution in the cell. The technology analyzes approximately 1800 cancer-associated genes from multiple distinct regions in the biopsy sample. It has the potential to unlock analysis of tissue samples that current methods cannot provide. Moreover, the method enables characterization of tumor cells, immune cells and fibroblasts in multiple regions of the tumor biopsy.

This project ultimately has the potential of leading to a new assay enabling a more detailed assessment of ALK+ TKI resistance and for the first time, systematically investigate mechanisms of AlK-independent resistance. The test may enable optimal matching of therapy to each patient at the time of resistance to available ALK inhibitors. As such, it holds the promise of improving the care of patients with advanced ALK+ lung cancer.


Aaron N. Hata, M.D., Ph.D. is an Assistant Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. His laboratory focuses on understanding how acquired resistance to targeted therapies evolves during therapy in NSCLC patients with mutations in KRAS, EGFR, and ALK genes and development of new therapeutic strategies for testing in the clinic.

He has developed a program generating patient-derived xenograft (PDX) NSCLC models as a resource for his research studies as well as the larger Harvard community. Dr. Hata works closely with thoracic oncologists, interventional pulmonologists, and thoracic surgeons to lead a lung cancer translational research program. This effort incorporates analysis of clinical samples and development of patient-derived tumor models, and basic mechanistic laboratory investigation.

Dr. Hata is also an Investigator with Ludwig Cancer Research Institute at Harvard and leads the institute’s lung cancer sub-group. He collaborates with industry partners in pre-clinical and clinical development of novel targeted therapies for lung cancer. He is also a co-investigator on the Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) Lung Cancer Dream Team in addition to other dynamic lung cancer collaborations.

Dr. Hata obtained his Ph.D. and M.D. at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine with his Ph.D. in Pharmacology. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Brigham and Womens Hospital and a Fellowship in Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Aaron N. Hata, M.D., Ph.D.

Our approach emphasizes a collaborative, team environment to accelerate new breakthroughs.


Jessica J. Lin, M.D.
Jessica J. Lin, M.D. Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital

Accelerate innovative research like this and help save cancer patient lives.

Cancer Type Areas