Gerald V. Denis, PhD

Shipley Prostate Cancer Research Professor, Medicine

Gerald Denis
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.

Recently, we have also explored the role of the BET bromodomain proteins in advanced prostate cancer, particularly in men with similar co-morbid conditions such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes. These inflammatory conditions also promote tumor progression in androgen-independent prostate cancer, eliciting greater cell migration and invasion, and raising the risk of metastasis. Advanced prostate cancer is a complex, heterogenous disease, with varying functional states of the androgen receptor and expression patterns across individual tumor cells. As the disease progresses, prostate tumor cells can become less reliant on androgen receptor signaling and use alternative signaling mechanisms to sustain growth and dissemination. Several of the pathways of progression are also relevant to triple negative breast cancer. Work in our lab is identifying ‘druggable’ BET protein targets to block prostate cancer progression in tumors that are either reliant on, or independent of, androgen receptor signaling. The research will benefit men with advancing prostate cancer, for whom initial therapeutic regimens have lost efficacy.

Other Positions

  • Professor, Pharmacology, Physiology & Biophysics, Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine
  • Co-Director, BU-BMC Cancer Center, Boston University
  • Member, Evans Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research, Boston University
  • Full Member, Boston Nutrition Obesity Research Center, Boston University Medical Center
  • Member, Family Medicine, Boston University
  • Graduate Faculty (Primary Mentor of Grad Students), Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, Graduate Medical Sciences

Education

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

Publications

  • Published on 10/31/2023

    Mori JO, Elhussin I, Brennen WN, Graham MK, Lotan TL, Yates CC, De Marzo AM, Denmeade SR, Yegnasubramanian S, Nelson WG, Denis GV, Platz EA, Meeker AK, Heaphy CM. Prognostic and therapeutic potential of senescent stromal fibroblasts in prostate cancer. Nat Rev Urol. 2024 May; 21(5):258-273. PMID: 37907729.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 4/19/2023

    Adler FR, Anderson ARA, Bhushan A, Bogdan P, Bravo-Cordero JJ, Brock A, Chen Y, Cukierman E, DelGiorno KE, Denis GV, Ferrall-Fairbanks MC, Gartner ZJ, Germain RN, Gordon DM, Hunter G, Jolly MK, Karacosta LG, Mythreye K, Katira P, Kulkarni RP, Kutys ML, Lander AD, Laughney AM, Levine H, Lou E, Lowenstein PR, Masters KS, Pe'er D, Peyton SR, Platt MO, Purvis JE, Quon G, Richer JK, Riddle NC, Rodriguez A, Snyder JC, Lee Szeto G, Tomlin CJ, Yanai I, Zervantonakis IK, Dueck H. Modeling collective cell behavior in cancer: Perspectives from an interdisciplinary conversation. Cell Syst. 2023 Apr 19; 14(4):252-257. PMID: 37080161.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 2/8/2023

    Paul I, Bolzan D, Youssef A, Gagnon KA, Hook H, Karemore G, Oliphant MUJ, Lin W, Liu Q, Phanse S, White C, Padhorny D, Kotelnikov S, Chen CS, Hu P, Denis GV, Kozakov D, Raught B, Siggers T, Wuchty S, Muthuswamy SK, Emili A. Parallelized multidimensional analytic framework applied to mammary epithelial cells uncovers regulatory principles in EMT. Nat Commun. 2023 Feb 08; 14(1):688. PMID: 36755019.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 1/18/2023

    Wang Y, Huang J, Ang TFA, Zhu Y, Tao Q, Mez J, Alosco M, Denis GV, Belkina A, Gurnani A, Ross M, Gong B, Han J, Lunetta KL, Stein TD, Au R, Farrer LA, Zhang X, Qiu WQ. Circulating Endothelial Progenitor Cells Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer's Disease. medRxiv. 2023 Jan 18. PMID: 36711847.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 12/20/2022

    Samuels L, Boskov N, Francisco Oliveira A, Sun E, Starobinski D, Trachtenberg A, Monga M, Varia M, Canetti R, Devaiah A, Denis GV. Automated Exposure Notification for COVID-19. J Young Investig. 2022 Dec; 25(12). PMID: 37408595.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 12/1/2022

    Ennis CS, Llevenes P, Qiu Y, Dries R, Denis GV. The crosstalk within the breast tumor microenvironment in type II diabetes: Implications for cancer disparities. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2022; 13:1044670. PMID: 36531496.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 11/4/2022

    Jafari N, Chen A, Kolla M, Pompa IR, Qiu Y, Yu R, Llevenes P, Ennis CS, Mori J, Mahdaviani K, Halpin M, Gignac GA, Heaphy CM, Monti S, Denis GV. Novel plasma exosome biomarkers for prostate cancer progression in co-morbid metabolic disease. Adv Cancer Biol Metastasis. 2022 Dec; 6. PMID: 36644690.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 6/1/2022

    Jafari N, Llevenes P, Denis GV. Exosomes as novel biomarkers in metabolic disease and obesity-related cancers. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2022 Jun; 18(6):327-328. PMID: 35361917.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 5/16/2022

    Sergesketter AR, Geng Y, Shammas RL, Denis GV, Bachelder R, Hollenbeck ST. The Association Between Metabolic Derangement and Wound Complications in Elective Plastic Surgery. J Surg Res. 2022 Oct; 278:39-48. PMID: 35588573.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 5/4/2022

    Alhousami T, Diny M, Ali F, Shin J, Kumar G, Kumar V, Campbell JD, Noonan V, Hanna GJ, Denis GV, Monti S, Kukuruzinska MA, Varelas X, Bais MV. Inhibition of LSD1 Attenuates Oral Cancer Development and Promotes Therapeutic Efficacy of Immune Checkpoint Blockade and YAP/TAZ Inhibition. Mol Cancer Res. 2022 May 04; 20(5):712-721. PMID: 35105672.

    Read at: PubMed

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