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Pincus Medalist Marsha Moses delivers annual scientific lecture at UMass Medical School

Biomarker and nanomedicine expert reviews pioneering work in cancer diagnosis and therapy

Marsha Moses, PhD

Biochemist Marsha Moses, PhD, accepted the 30th Gregory Pincus Medal of the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research and UMass Medical School and delivered the annual Pincus Memorial Lecture on Tuesday, Nov. 10.

Dr. Moses, the Julia Dyckman Andrus Professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, described her lab’s groundbreaking work in rationally designed precision “theranostics” for cancer and its metastases.

Combining diagnostics and therapeutics employing sophisticated research techniques and technology, including gene therapy, precision nanotherapeutics and biomarker medicine, theranostics offers great promise for individualized, targeted diagnosis and drugs for some of the most difficult-to-treat cancers. Moses has focused on its applications for metastatic cancer, particularly triple negative breast cancer, as well as glioblastoma and pancreatic cancer.

“Patients with triple negative breast cancer typically have a relatively poor outcome compared with other breast cancer subtypes owing to an inherently aggressive clinical behavior and a lack of recognized molecular targets for therapy, so we decided to take a crack at developing some targeted therapies for this very challenging disease,” said Moses. “We began by developing a novel quantitative platform for precision theranostic development to identify receptors on the surface of different types of cancer cells that we might be able to use to target nanomedicines.”

Internationally recognized for her significant contributions to the understanding of the biochemical and molecular mechanisms that underlie the regulation of tumor development and progression, Moses and her lab have discovered several inhibitors of these processes and validated a number of novel, noninvasive biomarkers for a variety of human cancers. These discoveries are being used in drug discovery and clinical trials. Most recently she and her team have also engineered novel nontoxic, targeted nanomedicines for the treatment of human cancers.

The annual Pincus Memorial Lecture was established in 1969 to honor Gregory Pincus, a pioneer in reproductive biology and the co-founder of the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research. Seven Pincus Medal recipients were or subsequently became Nobel laureates. The event was hosted by Chancellor Michael F. Collins and Thoru Pederson, PhD, the Vitold Arnett Professor of Cell Biology, professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology and president emeritus of the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research.

Dr. Pederson and Moses, who has been awarded numerous honors for mentoring, especially of women faculty, spoke to the importance of mentorship. Moses completed her postdoctoral fellowship in the MIT lab of Robert Langer, PhD, who had been mentored by cancer biologist Judah Folkman, MD.

“Showing the extraordinary importance of key moments in one’s training, and one’s gifts of received mentorship, what Marsha has done in brilliant contributions over her career is to remember the teachings of Folkman and Langer but to move into her independent career with a slightly broader view,” said Pederson.

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