Joan Massagué Solé

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Joan Massagué
Joan Massagué, PhD, Chair of the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.jpg
Born (1953-04-30)April 30, 1953
Barcelona, Spain
Fields cancer biology
Institutions Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Institute for Research in Biomedicine
Alma mater University of Barcelona, Brown University
Known for cancer metastasis

Joan Massagué Solé (Barcelona, April 30, 1953), is a Spanish scientist. He is the director of the Sloan-Kettering Institute and Chair of the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. An internationally recognized leader in the study of both cancer metastasis and growth factors that regulate cell behavior, he is also a professor at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.


Born in Barcelona, Spain, on April 30, 1953, Massagué earned his doctorate degree in Pharmacy and Biochemistry at the University of Barcelona in 1978 under the mentorship of Professor Joan J. Guinovart. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in 1982 in the laboratory of Michael P. Czech, PhD, at Brown University, where he determined the composition of the receptor for the hormone insulin. Later that year, he became an assistant professor in Biochemistry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, where he initiated his work on cell growth control.

Massagué joined Memorial Sloan-Kettering in 1989 as the Alfred P. Sloan Chair of the Sloan-Kettering Institute’s Cell Biology Program and was named founding Chair of the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program in 2003. In addition, he is the Director of Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Metastasis Research Center, which brings together a diverse group of the Center's basic scientists and clinicians who are studying the causes, mechanisms, and treatment of metastasis — the spread of cancer in the body and the cause of a majority of cancer-related deaths.[1]

He was an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute — a nonprofit medical research organization that ranks as one of the nation’s largest philanthropies and plays a powerful role in advancing biomedical research and science education in the United States — from 1990 to 2013. Massagué is also Scientific Advisor at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), an independent, nonprofit research institution engaged in basic and applied biomedical science.

In 2013, Massagué was named Director of the Sloan-Kettering Institute, one of the most dynamic and robust cancer research programs in the United States, and the research arm of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.[2]

Scientific contributions[edit]

Massagué’s past and current research has focused on the study of signaling mechanisms by the cytokine transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) that are essential for embryonic development, immunity, and maintenance of normal tissues, and whose alterations are a cause of congenital disorders and cancer.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he identified the TGF-β receptors, their mechanism of activation, and the central concept of how the TGF-β pathway operates. This process leads to the inhibition of cell division through the p27 family of proteins, which he co-discovered. His work has provided a direct explanation for how external signals from the cell membrane to the nucleus control mammalian cell division and fate.

Massagué’s work has also been recognized for having clear implications for the potential prevention and treatment of cancer metastasis. In 2003, Massagué and colleagues published a paper documenting the effects of the gain or loss of the TGF-β pathway in a mouse model of breast cancer.[3]

Their results showed that an intact TGF-β pathway can increase lung metastases, but suppress the growth of primary tumors. That same year, he published another paper that found that two genes expressed in breast cancer were increased in the presence of TGF-β and enabled the tumor cells to metastasize to the bone.[4]

In 2005, Massagué and his team published a similar study that fingered which breast cancer cells expressing an identified set of genes associated with metastasis were destined to spread to the bone over those likely to metastasize elsewhere.[5] These initial experiments spawned several other important papers that characterized gene sets and pathways in human cancer cells that enable breast and lung tumor cells to invade and colonize bones, lungs,[6] and the brain.[7] This work is helping researchers to understand the roles of these genes in cancer and to develop new ideas for therapies that would specifically target metastasis.

Massagué and colleagues have also shed light on a recently described phenomenon called self-seeding, in which circulating tumor cells — cancer cells that break away from a primary tumor and disseminate to other areas of the body — can also return to and grow in their tumor of origin. In one study, they discovered a genetic function that gives breast cancer cells the ability to survive and spread to the bone years after treatment has been administered.[8] They later found that self-seeding can enhance tumor growth through the release of signals that promote angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis.[9]

Massagué continues to explore the processes of cancer cell dissemination, the concept of self-seeding, and therapeutic opportunities to interfere with and limit metastasis. The Metastasis Research Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering facilitates this work.

Having authored more than 300 scientific articles, Massagué was one of the 50 most cited researchers in all areas of science between 1983 and 2002.[10] He has mentored and trained nearly one hundred graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Massagué, whose parents were both pharmacists, is the oldest of six siblings. He and his wife, Roser Salavert i Casamor, EdD, have two daughters, Eulàlia and Marta. His hobbies include mineralogy and mineral collecting.




  1. ^ [1], National Cancer Institute.
  2. ^ [2], Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
  3. ^ Siegel, P. M.; Shu, W.; Cardiff, R. D.; Muller, W. J.; Massague, J. (2003). "Transforming growth factor signaling impairs Neu-induced mammary tumorigenesis while promoting pulmonary metastasis". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100 (14): 8430–5. doi:10.1073/pnas.0932636100. PMC 166246. PMID 12808151. 
  4. ^ Kang, Yibin; Siegel, Peter M.; Shu, Weiping; Drobnjak, Maria; Kakonen, Sanna M.; Cordón-Cardo, Carlos; Guise, Theresa A.; Massagué, Joan (2003). "A multigenic program mediating breast cancer metastasis to bone". Cancer Cell 3 (6): 537–49. doi:10.1016/S1535-6108(03)00132-6. PMID 12842083. 
  5. ^ Kang, Y.; He, W; Tulley, S; Gupta, GP; Serganova, I; Chen, C-R; Manova-Todorova, K; Blasberg, R; Gerald, WL; Massagué, J (2005). "Breast cancer bone metastasis mediated by the Smad tumor suppressor pathway". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102 (39): 13909–14. doi:10.1073/pnas.0506517102. PMC 1236573. PMID 16172383. 
  6. ^ Gupta, Gaorav P.; Nguyen, Don X.; Chiang, Anne C.; Bos, Paula D.; Kim, Juliet Y.; Nadal, Cristina; Gomis, Roger R.; Manova-Todorova, Katia; Massagué, Joan (2007). "Mediators of vascular remodelling co-opted for sequential steps in lung metastasis". Nature 446 (7137): 765–70. doi:10.1038/nature05760. PMID 17429393. 
  7. ^ Bos, Paula D.; Zhang, Xiang H.-F.; Nadal, Cristina; Shu, Weiping; Gomis, Roger R.; Nguyen, Don X.; Minn, Andy J.; Van De Vijver, Marc J.; Gerald, William L.; Foekens, John A.; Massagué, Joan (2009). "Genes that mediate breast cancer metastasis to the brain". Nature 459 (7249): 1005–9. doi:10.1038/nature08021. PMC 2698953. PMID 19421193. 
  8. ^ Zhang, Xiang H.-F.; Wang, Qiongqing; Gerald, William; Hudis, Clifford A.; Norton, Larry; Smid, Marcel; Foekens, John A.; Massagué, Joan (2009). "Latent Bone Metastasis in Breast Cancer Tied to Src-Dependent Survival Signals". Cancer Cell 16 (1): 67–78. doi:10.1016/j.ccr.2009.05.017. PMC 2749247. PMID 19573813. 
  9. ^ Kim, Mi-Young; Oskarsson, Thordur; Acharyya, Swarnali; Nguyen, Don X.; Zhang, Xiang H.-F.; Norton, Larry; Massagué, Joan (2009). "Tumor Self-Seeding by Circulating Cancer Cells". Cell 139 (7): 1315–26. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2009.11.025. PMC 2810531. PMID 20064377. 
  10. ^ [3],
  11. ^ [4], Rock Stars of Science.

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