David H. Sherr, PhD, Consortium Director
Professor of Environmental Health, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine,
Boston University School of Public Health, School of Medicine
Director, Boston University Immunology Training Program
Director, Boston University Superfund Research Program
Dr. Sherr serves as the Director of this consortium. His graduate work was performed at the Cornell University School of Medicine and his postdoctoral work was conducted under Nobel Laureate Baruj Benacerraf at Harvard Medical School. On the faculty at Harvard Medical School for 14 years, he was recruited to Boston University as Professor of Environmental Health. Dr. Sherr is a molecular biologist and toxicologist who studies cellular receptors that recognize a wide variety of environmental pollutants that signal cells to both grow and metastasize. He is an internationally recognized expert on the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a protein that binds to environmental carcinogens and begins the aberrant signaling that results in a full-blown cancer cell.
Gail E. Sonenshein, PhD
Professor of Biochemistry
Tufts University School of Medicine
Dr. Sonenshein received her BA from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, her PhD from MIT,and performed her postdoctoral work at Institut de Recherches Scientifiques sur le Cancer, Villejuif, France, Tufts University and MIT. She served on the faculty at Boston University for more than 30 years. At Boston University, she established and directed the Women’s Health Interdisciplinary Research Center, a center dedicated to determining the underlying causes of several diseases in women including breast cancer. Dr. Sonenshein’s laboratory was the first to demonstrate inappropriate activation of the NF-κB in cancers. Drs. Sonenshein, Sherr and Seldin have co-authored over 20 articles on breast cancer signaling pathways.
Stefano Monti, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine
Adjunct Professor, Bioinformatics Program
Boston University School of Medicine
Affiliate Member, Board Institute of MIT & Harvard
Dr. Monti received his baccalaureate degree in computer science from the University of Udine in Italy. He received Masters degrees from the University of Houston in computer science and the University of Pittsburgh in artificial intelligence. His PhD work on artificial intelligence, as it relates to medical issues, also was performed at the University of Pittsburgh. He conducted his postdoctoral work at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to being appointed Senior Computational Biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard University, he was a research scientist at the Center for Genome Research at the Whitehead Institute at MIT. Dr. Monti has developed a cutting-edge technology for rapidly and economically screening thousands of chemicals for their ability to influence expression of virtually all cancer-related signaling pathways within human cells, including but not limited to the AhR, the Wnt, and the NF-κB pathways. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has acknowledged that this type of high-throughput screening assay may be the only practical way to determine how we are affected by mixtures of environmental pollutants.
Charlotte Kuperwasser, PhD
Associate Professor of Anatomy and Cellular Biology
Tufts University School of Medicine
Dr. Kuperwasser received her BA and PhD degrees from the University of Massachusetts and her postdoctoral training in breast cancer development at the Whitehead Institute at MIT in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Weinberg, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and winner of the National Medal of Science. Dr. Kuperwasser is an internationally recognized researcher with expertise in the biology of cancer stem cells, the cell subset likely responsible for cancer relapses and ultimately death, and in the role of the tumor microenvironment in malignant cell growth. She pioneered the development of a unique and enormously powerful mouse model in which discarded normal human breast cells are transplanted into the mammary glands of mice to study how these normal cells influence outgrowth of cancerous cells.
Dr. Sherr’s lab has demonstrated how the AHR (an environmental chemical receptor in the breast cell) induces the development of cancer stem cells in both breast and oral cancers, which invade tissues and migrate to the brain. They have also discovered that the AHR can be activated, causing cancer, by our own body’s bacteria (our “microbiome”) which has been altered by exposure to environmental chemicals.
Dr. Sonenshein’s lab has identified a unique signaling pathway that promotes the migration and metastasis of breast cancer. Further, they have developed a technology that detects residual breast cancer cells circulating in human blood and tells scientists what chemicals the human was exposed to.
Dr. Kupperwasser’s lab has generated preliminary data which indicates that estrogenmimicking chemicals dramatically alter the normal development path of human breast cells. This finding suggests that early exposure to these chemicals may cause healthy cells to transform into full blown malignancies.