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David M. Livingston, MD

Emil Frei Professor of Genetics and Medicine
Harvard Medical School
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Boston, Massachusetts

Current Research

Individuals with mutations in the BRCA1 gene have a high risk of breast or ovarian cancer. Currently the only proven effective preventive strategy is surgical removal of the breasts and/or ovaries. The primary focus of Dr. Livingston’s laboratory is to develop alternative prevention strategies, not involving invasive surgery, for inherited BRCA-associated breast cancers. His group is pursuing a mechanism-based approach that focuses on the cellular processes affected by BCRA1 mutation. Normal BCRA1 works to repair DNA damage in the cells. Mutations in BCRA1 cause several aspects of DNA repair to malfunction leading to increased DNA damage, which promotes cancer development and growth. Understanding which processes and proteins are affected by mutated BCRA1 presents new opportunities for targeted therapies. Dr. Livingston’s group recently uncovered a potentially promising target that may be important for preventing BRCA1-cancers, as well as for the treatment of non-BRCA1 cancers that have spread (metastasized). In the coming year they will conduct laboratory studies to test existing drugs and identify new drugs that may be used to target this pathway.

Bio

Dr. Livingston is a scientist/oncologist whose research has long been focused in the area of molecular cancer science. He received his AB cum laude from Harvard in 1961 and his MD magna cum laude from Tufts Medical School in 1965. He undertook his clinical training in internal medicine at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and his scientific training at NCI and at Harvard Medical School. He joined the Harvard and DFCI faculty as Assistant Professor of Medicine in 1973 and has been a faculty member at HMS and at DFCI continuously since that time. He is now the Emil Frei Professor of Genetics and Medicine at HMS and DFCI, where he, most recently, served as Chair of the Executive Committee for Research and continues to serve as Director of The Charles A. Dana Division of Human Cancer Genetics and Deputy Director of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. Dr. Livingston was Director and Physician-in-Chief of DFCI from 1991-1995 and Chair, Board of Scientific Advisors at the National Cancer Institute from 1995-1999). He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.