Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Pathology and Cancer Center investigator Bradley Bernstein, MD, PhD, is one of three recipients of the 2015 Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research, given by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). Bernstein is being honored for his investigations into how the structural organization or 'packaging' of our DNA within cells influences the functions of our genes. The packaging provides an additional layer of 'epigenetic' regulation that controls cellular differentiation and, when disrupted, contributes to cancer development. He is the first MGH researcher to receive this prestigious prize.
The genes that code for the generation of proteins make up only 2 percent of the human genome. While much is yet to be learned about the remaining non-coding sequences, it has become clear that a major function is to regulate where and when coding genes are switched on and off - a process known as epigenetics. Bernstein's team studies how these regulatory sequences control the packaging of the human genome and the activity of genes, and how their deregulation drives certain cancers. For example, his studies of glioblastoma have revealed massive epigenetic differences among different cells from the same tumor, which helps explain why these malignant brain tumors are so refractory to current therapies. The work has important implications for the development of precision therapies that address epigenetic defects in tumors.
The Paul Marks Prize was established in 2001 in honor of MSKCC president emeritus Paul Marks, MD and is given every other year to up to three investigators age 45 or younger, "who are making significant contributions to the understanding of cancer or are improving the treatment of the disease through basic or clinical research." Bernstein and his co-recipients - Howard Chang, MD, PhD, of Stanford University and Daniel Durocher, PhD, of the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute - will receive their awards and speak on their research at a December 3 scientific symposium at MSKCC.
Bernstein is a professor of Pathology at MGH and Harvard Medical School, and an institute member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. He holds MD and PhD degrees from the University of Washington School of Medicine, and a BS from Yale University.
Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the United States, with an annual research budget of more than $760 million and major research centers in AIDS, cardiovascular research, cancer, computational and integrative biology, cutaneous biology, human genetics, medical imaging, neurodegenerative disorders, regenerative medicine, reproductive biology, systems biology, transplantation biology and photomedicine. In July 2015, MGH returned into the number one spot on the 2015-16 U.S. News & World Report list of "America's Best Hospitals."