Raul Mostoslavsky, MD, PhD, and his Mass General team have identified a protein that puts the brakes on cancer cell growth by regulating certain genes.
Dr. Mostoslasky on stoping cancer cell growth with SIRT6 protein
Raul Mostoslavsky, MD, PhD

Raul Mostoslavsky, MD, PhD, has been focusing his lab’s research on a family of proteins in our cells that may play a critical role in halting the growth of cancer cells.

In the past year, Dr. Mostoslavsky has identified the protein SIRT6 as a critical tumor suppressor. Dr. Mostoslavsky and his colleagues discovered that SIRT6 puts the brakes on tumor growth by regulating particular metabolic genes. Those genes control the cell’s energy, creating a favorable environment for cancer cells to grow.

MGH researchers found that when cancer takes over cells and gets rid of SIRT6, tumors were more aggressive and increased in number in colon cancer animal models. Now, Dr. Mostoslavsky and his colleagues are looking at models for pancreatic cancer, breast cancer and squamous carcinoma, a form of skin cancer.

In his lab, Dr. Mostoslavsky has developed a method to test metabolic adaptations of cancer cells by running them through a collection of DNA samples to study metabolism.
In his lab, Dr. Mostoslavsky has developed a method to test metabolic adaptations of cancer cells by running them through a collection of DNA samples to study metabolism.

New Test for Cancer Cells

Dr. Mostoslavsky’s research into understanding how cancer cells operate may encourage discovery of alternative approaches for treating cancer. Many companies are already jumping into this field of research — the metabolism of cancer cells — hoping to combine treatments that target a cell’s source of energy with chemotherapy. The goal is to attack cancer from two angles and improve patient care.

“I cannot predict where we will be five years from now,” Dr. Mostoslavsky says. “It’s really open territory, and I am happy to be in the middle of this exploratory phase.”

In 2012, Dr. Mostoslavsky became the Kristine and Bob Higgins MGH Research Scholar. Using some of that funding, he has developed a method to test metabolic adaptations of cancer cells by running them through a collection of DNA to study metabolism. This research will allow Dr. Mostoslavsky to better understand the genetics of cancer cells.

“The MGH Research Scholar Award gave me wings to explore new scientific questions related to cancer,” says Raul Mostoslavsky, MD, PhD.

Innovative Avenues of Research

To pursue basic research, Dr. Mostoslavsky left his native Argentina for his studies and found his way to Mass General. “Mass General is truly an environment that stimulates intellectual discussion and nurtures its researchers. Definitely one of a kind,” he says.

Dr. Mostoslavsky has devoted his life to understanding disease on the molecular level. He hopes his work will lead to better treatments and cures for patients.

“The MGH Research Scholar Award gave me wings to explore new scientific questions related to cancer,” says Dr. Mostoslavsky. “Without that support, my most innovative avenues of research would have been paused even before they started, and for this, I am enormously grateful.”

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