Gerald V. Denis, PhD

Associate Professor, Medicine

617.358.4785
72 E. Concord St Silvio Conte (K)

Biography

I am a molecular oncologist with experience in chromatin control of transcription in cancer. I pioneered studies of the BET bromodomains proteins, a family comprised of BRD2 (originally named RING3), BRD3 and BRD4 in somatic cells, which are important as transcriptional co-regulators. I was the first to report a function for a BET protein, and to link these co-regulators to human cancer. The BET protein field has grown from sixteen papers, when I first published my work, to over 1,300 to date; they have since been implicated in several cancer types. Our recent data have established that BET bromodomain proteins provide a functional link between abnormal metabolism, inflammation and breast cancer progression in post-menopausal African American women. We are now realizing that BET proteins regulate cytokine/chemokine production in the immune cells that infiltrate the breast cancer microenvironment, which are important for immune exhaustion, chemoresistance and metastasis.

More detailed study of these pathways, in African American women in particular, is essential. Risks for breast cancer incidence and progression are not distributed evenly in the population, and are likely stratified by abnormal metabolism such as is found in Type 2 diabetes; yet, the current standard of care in breast oncology does not fully consider the role of diabetes and obesity-associated inflammation as drivers of progression and metastasis. African American women bear a disproportionate burden of poor-prognosis triple negative breast cancer, as well as higher prevalence of obesity, obesity-driven Type 2 diabetes and chronic inflammation, compared to white women. Deeper mechanistic and clinical studies must focus on these more vulnerable patients.

Molecular models and population studies also now suggest that metabolic disease and its associated imbalances in cytokines are more important for breast cancer initiation and progression than obesity per se. My intensive involvement over the last eight years with collaborators in population science, immunology, endocrinology and molecular oncology have prompted me to investigate a new area of high public health significance: breast cancer in non-obese women with metabolic disease and chronic inflammation. New thinking must consider drivers of metastasis, and the role the BET bromodomain proteins play in regulating metastasis potential. We hypothesize the BET proteins are equally important for breast cancer progression in lean women with metabolic disease and its associated chronic inflammation.

Other Positions

  • Associate Professor, Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, Boston University School of Medicine
  • Center Faculty Member, Cancer Research Center, Boston University School of Medicine
  • Graduate Faculty (Primary Mentor of Grad Students), Boston University School of Medicine, Division of Graduate Medical Sciences

Education

  • University of California, Berkeley, PhD
  • University of Tokyo, MSc
  • Harvard College, AB

Publications

  • Published on 5/8/2018

    Denis GV, Sebastiani P, Bertrand KA, Strissel KJ, Tran AH, Slama J, Medina ND, Andrieu G, Palmer JR. Inflammatory signatures distinguish metabolic health in African American women with obesity. PLoS One. 2018; 13(5):e0196755. PMID: 29738558.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 3/1/2018

    Andrieu GP, Shafran JS, Deeney JT, Bharadwaj KR, Rangarajan A, Denis GV. BET proteins in abnormal metabolism, inflammation, and the breast cancer microenvironment. J Leukoc Biol. 2018 Mar 01. PMID: 29493812.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 2/7/2018

    Andrieu GP, Denis GV. BET Proteins Exhibit Transcriptional and Functional Opposition in the Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition. Mol Cancer Res. 2018 Apr; 16(4):580-586. PMID: 29437854.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 11/15/2017

    Palmer JR, Castro-Webb N, Bertrand K, Bethea TN, Denis GV. Type II Diabetes and Incidence of Estrogen Receptor Negative Breast Cancer in African American Women. Cancer Res. 2017 Nov 15; 77(22):6462-6469. PMID: 29141994.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 8/25/2017

    Denis GV, Sebastiani P, Andrieu G, Tran AH, Strissel KJ, Lombardi FL, Palmer JR. Relationships Among Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, and Plasma Cytokines in African American Women. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017 Nov; 25(11):1916-1920. PMID: 28840653.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 4/13/2017

    Denis GV, Palmer JR. "Obesity-Associated" Breast Cancer in Lean Women: Metabolism and Inflammation as Critical Modifiers of Risk. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2017 May; 10(5):267-269. PMID: 28408379.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 12/19/2016

    Charlot M, Castro-Webb N, Bethea TN, Bertrand K, Boggs DA, Denis GV, Adams-Campbell LL, Rosenberg L, Palmer JR. Diabetes and breast cancer mortality in Black women. Cancer Causes Control. 2017 Jan; 28(1):61-67. PMID: 27995352.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 9/20/2016

    Andrieu G, Tran AH, Strissel KJ, Denis GV. BRD4 Regulates Breast Cancer Dissemination through Jagged1/Notch1 Signaling. Cancer Res. 2016 Nov 15; 76(22):6555-6567. PMID: 27651315.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 9/13/2016

    Strissel KJ, Nicholas DA, Castagne-Charlotin M, Ko N, Denis GV. Correction to "Barriers to Obtaining Sera and Tissue Specimens of African-American Women for the Advancement of Cancer Research". Clin Med Insights Womens Health. 2016; 9:35. PMID: 27695380.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 8/4/2016

    Nicholas DA, Andrieu G, Strissel KJ, Nikolajczyk BS, Denis GV. BET bromodomain proteins and epigenetic regulation of inflammation: implications for type 2 diabetes and breast cancer. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2017 Jan; 74(2):231-243. PMID: 27491296.

    Read at: PubMed

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