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MassGeneral Hospital for Children Cancer Center



As one of the leading pediatric hematology and oncology services in New England, the MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) Cancer Center provides comprehensive, family-centered care for pediatric patients with all types of cancer including: childhood leukemia, lymphomas, bone and soft tissue sarcomas, retinoblastoma, brain tumors and others, as well as adult survivors of childhood cancers.


Laboratory of Dr. David Sweetser


Identifying Novel and More Effective Therapies for Pediatric Cancers

Research in the laboratory of Dr. David Sweetser seeks to better understanding how cancer develops and to find novel therapies for cancer that are more effective and less toxic. Part of his research studies gatekeeper proteins normally expressed in cells that can prevent cancer from developing. His lab has shown these proteins have the ability to repress Myc, one of the most potent cancer causing genes, and can prevent the development of some types of leukemia driven by Myc. The loss of these gatekeeper proteins allow oncogenes such as Myc to trigger uncontrolled cell growth and cancer. Myc is also expressed in many aggressive brain tumors, including the worst medulloblastomas and gliomas. Current work underway in his lab seeks to determine if these gatekeeper proteins can also block the growth of these brain tumors. If so, further experiments will attempt to use this information to develop new therapies for these brain tumors.


Genetic Screening Identifies Cancer Risk and Saves Lives through Early Detection

Other work in Dr. Sweetser's MGH laboratory seeks to identify children that might have developed brain tumors because they were born with a genetic predisposing mutation. Although this is believed to be rare, it has not been systematically examined. In some cases Dr. Sweetser and his MGH team have discovered such mutations that were unknowingly also present in parents. These parents were at risk of developing cancers themselves, as well as passing this increased cancer risk to other children.


The identification of such individuals can allow screenings that can potentially save live by detecting cancers early. In a large collaborative project Dr. Sweetser has started with researchers in Pathology and Radiation Oncology at MGH and the Broad Institute he plans to look a large numbers of patients with brain tumors to discover if such genetic predisposing mutations may exist and also to determine what mutations might have caused the cancer. This may also allow tailored therapies for patients that might more effectively cure them of their cancer.


To find out more or about this and other outstanding research and the MGHfC Pediatric Hematology Oncology Center or to support these efforts contact Jennifer Trapp at 617.643.9838 or