• Researcher Profile

    David A. Frank, MD, PhD

    Senior Physician

    Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School


    Hematologic Oncology

    Office phone: 617-632-4714
    Fax: 617-394-2782
    Email: david_frank@dfci.harvard.edu

    Preferred contact method: email

    View Physician Profile

    Research Department

    Medical Oncology/Hematologic Neoplasia



    Area of Research

    Targeting Signaling Pathways for Cancer Therapy

    Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
    450 Brookline Avenue
    Mayer 522B
    Boston, MA 02215


    Dr. Frank received his MD in 1986 and PhD in 1987 from Yale University. After serving as an intern, resident, and chief resident in internal medicine at Yale, he completed training in medical oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in intracellular signal transduction at Harvard Medical School.

    In 1995, Dr. Frank brought his laboratory group back to Dana-Farber, where he also maintains a clinical practice.

    Recent Awards

    • Award for Outstanding Research Achievement, Nature Biotechnology SciCafe, 2009
    • Partners in Excellence Award, Partners HealthCare, 2009
    • Team Impact Award, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 2009
    • Collaborative Physician Practice Award, 2008
    • Biological and Biomedical Sciences Teaching Award, Harvard Medical School, 2003
    • Hoopes Prize-Mentor, Harvard University, 2003
    • Fellow, American College of Physicians, 2002
    • Kittredge Research Award, 2002
    • Discovery Program Award, 2001
    • Fellow, Molecular Medicine Society, 1999
    • Teaching Award, Class of 2002, Harvard Medical School, 1999


    Targeting Signaling Pathways for Cancer Therapy

    Our laboratory focuses on the intracellular signaling pathways that control normal cellular function and become subverted in the development of cancer. The ultimate goal is to use this knowledge to design targeted molecular inhibitors for the treatment of cancer.
    Much of our work is centered on a family of cellular regulators called STATs, or signal transducers and activators of transcription. Once activated, STATs induce the expression of specific target genes that control critical cellular processes. In many kinds of cancer, we have found that STATs are activated inappropriately, thereby driving growth and survival in a cell that would otherwise remain quiescent or die. Thus, understanding how STATs function is a crucial step in understanding cancer biology.
    In this context, our laboratory has focused on understanding the role that STATs play in the development and treatment of cancers. We are dissecting the specific genes that are targeted by STATs and are necessary for mediating their biological effects. We are also analyzing how STAT function is modulated by other regulators of chromatin structure such as histones and DNA methylation.
    In addition, we are developing inhibitors of STAT function as a therapy for cancer. Whereas malignant cells are extremely sensitive to inhibition of STAT signaling, normal cells are able to tolerate STAT inhibition with minimal consequences. Thus, STAT inhibitors are particularly attractive anticancer drugs. We are approaching this area in three ways. First, we have found that some anti-cancer and chemopreventive agents are potent inhibitors of STAT signaling. We are now trying to extend and enhance these findings to harness the clinical potential of these drugs. Second, we have designed systems to rapidly screen thousands of compounds for activity as STAT inhibitors, testing a number of chemical "libraries" which are likely to contain active molecules. Finally, in conjunction with synthetic chemists, we have designed unique small molecules to act as specific STAT inhibitors. These compounds are being tested in cellular and animal systems to assess their activity, and we are beginning clinical trials of this therapeutic strategy in cancer patients.
    We feel confident that this type of rational development of signal transduction inhibitors will provide the next generation of highly active and less toxic cancer therapies.


    • Nelson, Erik A., PhD


    • Walker, Sarah R., PhD
    • Liu, Suhu, PhD
    • Bar-Natan, Michal, MD
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