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The Ellisen Lab

Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Program Director, Breast Medical Oncology

Investigator, Ludwig Center at Harvard

lellisen@mgh.harvard.edu

Dr. Leif Ellisen is Breast Cancer Program Director and a senior Investigator at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is also co-Leader of the Breast Cancer Program at the Dana-Farber Harvard Cancer Center. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University, MD and PhD degrees from Stanford University, and completed residency training, oncology fellowship training, and postdoctoral research training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and MGH, respectively. The Ellisen laboratory’s research is focused on pathogenesis of breast and other cancers, with a particular focus on triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), incorporating studies of tissue-specific development, transcription factor networks and DNA repair. Through a detailed molecular understanding of these factors we seek to improve diagnosis, therapeutic prediction, and treatment efficacy. Our published work within the last five years has revealed fundamental new genetic mechanisms in HR+ breast cancer (Reinbay et al, Nature 2017; Matissek et al, Cancer Discovery 2018) and discovered a new and therapeutically relevant signature of homologous recombination deficiency (Polak et al, Nat Genet 2017). Our work on a DNA damage response pathway led directly to a national clinical trial for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) at 10 major cancer centers (Isakoff et al, J Clin Oncol 2015), and to the discovery of a new oncogene controlling the tumor epigenome (Saladi et al, Cancer Cell 2017). We were among the first to define the intra-tumoral heterogeneity of TNBC (Karaayvaz et al, Nature Comm, 2018), and recently discovered that DNA damage and altered signaling precede histologic abnormalities in noncancerous breast tissues of BRCA2 mutation carriers (Karaayvaz et al, Science Advances, 2020).

 

The Ellisen lab is uniquely positioned to work at the interface of basic tumor biology and therapeutic application. The lab’s work is strongly supported by a network of collaborators and by the extensive research and clinical infrastructure of the MGH Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School.

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Sarah Mueller

Postdoctoral Fellow

I am originally from St. Louis, Missouri and received my undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Washington University in St. Louis. I completed my MD and PhD in Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke University. I came to Massachusetts General Hospital for my residency in Clinical Pathology and fellowship in Molecular Genetic Pathology. My current research involves characterizing early changes in precancerous breast tissue from patients with defects in homologous repair pathways (e.g., BRCA1 mutations) with the goal of developing biomarkers that predict progression to cancer and identifying targets for cancer prevention in this population.

Bryce Ordway

Postdoctoral Fellow

I am from Palm Harbor, FL and completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Central Florida with a major in Biotechnology. My PhD research was conducted at Moffitt Cancer Center where I investigated the causes and consequences of acidosis in breast cancer with considerable interest in the interplay between metabolic phenotypes and tumor evolution. My current focus in the Ellisen Lab is investigating how metabolic phenotypes may influence patterns of late-recurrence in estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer patients and how we can use this knowledge to predict or prevent late-recurrence in patients. 

Nicole Malalage Peiris

Postdoctoral Fellow

I am originally from Los Angeles, California and received my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California, Davis. I completed my PhD in Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego, where I focused on characterization of mutated kinases as therapeutic targets for cancer treatment. I am currently focusing on multi-omics analysis of triple-negative breast cancers in African American women through the WHITNEY Study—a joint collaboration between MGH and BMC. This research aims to delineate the mechanisms underlying neoadjuvant chemotherapy response within African American TNBC patients, with the goal of reducing cancer disparities among this population.

Zuen Ren

Postdoctoral Fellow

I am originally from China and learnt and practiced medicine at Capital Medical University, Beijing, where I completed my medical residency training in cardiothoracic surgery. I later earned an M.S. and a Ph.D – both in Biomedical Science (concentration: breast oncology and pathology), from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. My current works in the Ellisen Lab involve 1) using multiomics approach to deconvolute tumor heterogeneity of TNBC (the most aggressive subtype of breast cancer) for further powering therapeutic discovery across multiple levels of cancer biology, and 2) dissecting early pathogenesis of BRCA1/2-associated cancer for risk prediction and prevention.

Bogang

Bogang Wu

Postdoctoral Fellow

I am originally from China and received my undergraduate degree from Liaocheng University, master’s degree from Jinan University in China. I completed my PhD in Cancer Biology at The George Washington University. I came to Massachusetts General Hospital for my postdoctoral fellowship in cancer biology and therapeutics. My current research interests include studying tumor microenvironment and mechanisms of novel antibody drug conjugate.

Shufeng Zhou

Postdoctoral Fellow

I am originally from China. I received my undergraduate degree from Sun Yat-Sen University of Medical Science in Guangzhou, China and my graduate degree from the McGill university department of surgery. My major research interest is to define the transcriptional factors that contribute to the pathogenesis of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

Sheng Sun

Instructor

I am originally from China. I received my undergraduate degree from Anhui Normal University in China, master’s degree from Beijing Normal University in China, and PhD degree from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. My major research interests are exosome cargo loading and function, analysis of novel gene fusions identified in breast cancer, and the mechanisms of a novel antibody drug conjugate (IMMU132) in TNBC.

Po-Han Lin

Visiting Research Scientist

I am originally from Taiwan and received my MD degree from Taipei Medical University. I completed my residency training in internal medicine and clinical fellow training in medical oncology/hematology and genetics at the National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH). I moved to China Medical University Hospital in Taichung, Taiwan as a physician and earned my PhD in Biomedical Science (concentration: breast cancer) there. Later, I returned to NTUH as a breast oncologist focusing on breast cancer treatment and hereditary breast cancer syndrome. My current research in the Ellisen Lab involved dissecting early pathogenesis of BRCA1/2-associated cancer for risk prediction and prevention.

Taïsha Joseph

Bioinformatics Analyst

I am originally from Haiti. I received my Bachelor of Science degrees from Brandeis University in Neuroscience, Biology, and French & Francophone Studies with a minor in Chemistry. I am currently interested in investigating genetic patterns involved in intratumoral heterogeneity and treatment resistance in different types of breast cancers. I have been accepted into the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago, and hope to become a physician-scientist in the future.

Ilze Smidt

Research Assistant

I am originally from Johannesburg, South Africa. I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience from Bates College in Maine. My current research interests involve disparities in TNBC occurrence and survival rates between African American and Caucasian American women and early driving factors in precancerous breast tissue that predict cancer formation in patients with genetic defects in homologous repair pathways. In the future, I plan to further my education in neuroscience while focusing on patient welfare and disparities research.

David Li

Research Assistant

I am originally from Winchester, MA and received my Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I am currently interested in novel mechanisms of resistance and sensitization to antibody drug conjugates. In the future, I hope to go to graduate school to further my interests in medicine and research.

Win Thant

Research Assistant

I am originally from Myanmar (Burma). I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Tufts University. I am currently interested in the mechanisms of actions of novel antibody drug conjugates and the TNBC tumor microenvironment and am taking gap years to explore my interests in depth. My future plan is to further my education in research and medicine.

Nayana Thimmiah

Research Assistant

I am originally from Worcester, Massachusetts. I received my Bachelor of Science degrees in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Applied Mathematics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. My current research interests involve genome wide CRISPR screening and mechanistic studies behind irregularly expressed proteins in TNBC cells. My future plans include furthering my education within the healthcare field to continue to help those in need.

Natalie Moffit

TNBC Program Coordinator

I am originally from Essex, Vermont. I received my undergraduate degree in Health Science from Boston University, and my Master of Public Health from the Boston University School of Public Health, focusing in biostatistics and epidemiology. I am interested in cancer prevention, improving cancer outcomes, and disparities in cancer care. I am particularly interested in triple negative breast cancer, and am the program coordinator for the MGH Triple Negative Breast Cancer Program.

Aylin Dedeoglu

Clinical Research Coordinator

I am originally from Massachusetts. I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Neurobiology and my Certificate in Global Health from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I am interested in preventive medicine and improving disparities in cancer care, while learning how research and clinical care inform one another. My future plan is to further my education in medicine and public health.

Gabrielle Gioia

Clinical Research Coordinator

I am originally from Pennsville, New Jersey. I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. I am interested in cancer prevention, improved cancer treatments, and creating equal opportunities for access to healthcare. In the future, I plan to continue my education in the healthcare field and to serve those in need.

Nicole Smith

Laboratory Manager

Coming Soon…

Akiko Suzuki

Administrative Assistant

I am originally from Southern California. I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Cognitive Science with a specialization in Neuroscience from University of California, San Diego. I am interested in improving patient outcomes by bridging the gap between research and clinical care. In the future, I plan to further my education in healthcare in pursuit of optimizing patient care.

Alumni

Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School

Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School

Associate Professor w/ Tenure, University of Nantes, France

Assistant Professor, Cleveland Clinic Genomic Medicine Institute

Associate Professor w/ Tenure, International Medical University, Malaysia

Nageatte Ibrahim, MD

Associate Vice-President, Merck
Senior Scientist, Abbvie