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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The Saks Fifth Avenue Award

Area(s) of Focus

Charlotte Kuperwasser, PhD

Associate Professor, Developmental, Molecular, and Chemical Biology
Director, Raymond and Beverly Sackler Laboratory for the Convergence of Biomedical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Molecular Oncology Research Institute (MORI)
Boston, Massachusetts

Current Research

Metastasis accounts for 90 percent of cancer deaths. The fact that many of these deaths occur years after the initial diagnosis highlights the fact the tumor cells can remain dormant and undetected for many years. Little is understood about the requirements for these cells to reactivate and become metastatic tumors. While cancer is predominantly viewed as a disease caused by gene mutations (permanent changes to DNA), the discovery of epigenetic gene regulation, a reversible process in which chemical modifications of the DNA affect whether a gene is turned on or off, has led to a new awareness that epigenetic changes most likely outnumber genetic changes in the development and growth of cancers. Dr. Kuperwasser and her team discovered that the loss of several potential mediators can affect a cell’s ability to develop brain metastases. They have recently embarked on a new line of study that extends their prior work on identifying the cellular and genetic origins of human breast cancer. They identified a new gene that is frequently lost or mutated in human breast cancer and have discovered that it acts as a brake to prevent cancer formation. Their goal in the coming year is to determine how this protein functions as a brake and what pathways it controls, while launching a larger screening effort to identify new genes that drive breast cancer formation.


Dr. Charlotte Kuperwasser is the Director of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Laboratory for the Convergence of Biomedical, Physical and Engineering Sciences at Tufts University School of Medicine. She is an Associate Professor Developmental, Molecular & Chemical Biology and an investigator at the Molecular Oncology Research Institute (MORI) at Tufts Medical Center. She is a national and internationally recognized expert in the fields of mammary gland biology and breast cancer.

Dr. Kuperwasser has made seminal contributions in the field of mammary gland development, breast cancer, stromal-epithelial cell biology, and stem cells. Her major scientific achievements include the creation of innovative and novel humanized laboratory models to study normal and cancer development as well as metastasis. Using these models, she was the first to enumerate the cellular origins of human breast cancer and model BRCA1-mutation in humans. Dr. Kuperwasser has also made seminal achievements in identifying and characterizing normal and cancer stem cells (CSCs) as well as enumerating the master regulators that control stem cells and cell fate decisions in the breast.

Dr. Kuperwasser received her PhD at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and was a Jane Coffin Child's Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Robert Weinberg at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT. Dr. Kuperwasser has been a Howard Hughes Fellow, a Merck Fellow and received several awards including the COG/Aventis Young Investigator Award, the Raymond & Beverly Sackler Award, and the Natalie V. Zucker Award.