Jack and Jane B. Aron Professor
Founding Chair Emeritus
Department of Oncological Sciences
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York, New York
Dr. Aaronson’s work is focused on identifying biomarkers that may lead to new therapies in several types of aggressive breast cancers. Work in his laboratory led to the discovery that the HER2 gene is the driving factor in about 30 percent of breast cancers, cancers that are now treatable with targeted anti-HER2 therapies. His current BCRF project is focused on a protein called Wnt and its role in triple negative breast cancer. Previous work by his laboratory has shown that triple negative tumor cells with high activity of a growth pathway called Wnt were more invasive and survived better than those that did not have high Wnt activity. He is leading ongoing efforts to develop drugs to block the Wnt pathway and stop the growth of triple negative tumor cells. Separately, using an inflammatory breast cancer cell line developed in his laboratory, Dr. Aaronson has also shown that inflammatory breast cancer cells secrete proteins that influence tumor growth by interacting with the tumor microenvironment. Based on these novel findings, his group is actively pursuing possible therapeutic strategies to specifically target this aggressive type of breast cancer, while continuing to explore other signaling pathways that contribute to some breast cancers. Collectively, Dr. Aaronson’s research has led to important discoveries in triple negative, HER2 positive and inflammatory breast cancers that will lead to better treatments for these diseases.
Dr. Aaronson’s research is focused on discovery and functions of cancer genes. At the NCI as Chief, Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology, he identified the first normal function of a cancer gene as that of a growth factor, PDGF, and cloned erbB2 (also designated HER2/neu), a novel growth factor receptor gene he detected as amplified in a human breast carcinoma. This discovery and his subsequent investigations paved the way for diagnostic tests to identify breast cancer patients, who benefit from erbB2-targeted therapies. He discovered KGF (FGF7), a growth factor with novel epithelial cell specificity, now FDA approved for use in the treatment of mucositis, a debilitating side effect of many cancer therapies. His discoveries of other critical components in growth factor signaling pathways and their implications in cancer including erbB3, the alpha PDGF receptor and HGF as the ligand for MET have also led to pre-clinical and clinical development of new agents targeting these molecules in tumors. Dr. Aaronson joined Mount Sinai in 1993 and built a cancer research department, which has grown to more than 25 faculty members. As Founding Chair Emeritus, his research continues to explore new therapeutic targets in breast and other cancers with the goal of translating these advances to patients. Dr. Aaronson is an internationally recognized physician scientist with over 500 publications and over 50 patents. He has trained dozens of investigators, who have gone on to establish careers in major academic centers and biotech/pharma in this country and abroad.