The Toker Laboratory


Alex Toker is a Professor in the Department of Pathology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, and Chief of the Division of Signal Transduction in Departments of Medicine, Pathology and Cancer Center. The lab has membership in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences PhD Program, the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, and the Ludwig Center at Harvard.

Our research focuses on the cell and molecular biology of cancer. We are investigating the mechanisms by which signaling pathways impact tumor cell survival, invasion and metastasis. We are also studying metabolic alterations in tumor cells and how these lead to vulnerabilities that can be used to target tumors with specific therapies.  Our goal is to decipher the complex mechanisms by which these pathways impact cancer progression, with the ultimate goal of developing drugs that interfere with malignancy.

Fall 2020 - Positions Available. The Toker lab is recruiting! 

We are accepting inquiries from graduate students and postdocs. We are seeking highly motivated, collaborative trainees with an interest in studying the regulation and effects of oncogenic signaling in cancer. If you are a graduate student, please email Alex about your research interests. If you are seeking a postdoc position, please email Alex with your CV, three reference contacts, and research interests. 

Alex has been awarded an R35 Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Cancer Institute! Read all about it and the other OIA awardees here!

Alissandra and Alex have co-authored a Cancer Cell preview on PI3K and breast cancer biomarker detection. 

The lab welcomes Caroline Zarzuela, enrolled in the HMS Research Scholar Initiative. Welcome to the lab Caroline!

The lab welcomes Josefina Mendez who will be joining the lab for her first rotation in the BBS graduate program. Welcome Josefina!

Amber Chopelas has left the lab and moved onto new and exciting adventures at Georgetown U. Farewell and best of luck Amber!

Sam Barritt has been awarded an F31 Ruth L. Kirchstein National Research Service Award from the NCI. Congrats Sam!!

The Toker lab welcomes Riley Harrison, undergraduate student in the HMS SHURP (Summer Honors Undergraduate Research Program) for the summer. Welcome Riley! 

Paper published! Metabolic reprogramming in endothelial cells exposed to hypoxia!  Congrats to Emily Cohen! 

Cohen EB, Geck RC, Toker A. Metabolic pathway alterations in microvascular endothelial cells in response to hypoxia. PLoS One. 2020 Jul 9;15(7):e0232072.

Emily Erickson has been awarded an F31 Ruth L. Kirchstein National Research Service Award from the NCI. Congrats Emily!!

Paper Published! Congrats to Hui Liu for a tour de force published in Cancer Discovery!

Liu H, Paddock MN, Wang H, Murphy CJ, Geck RC, Navarro AJ, Wulf GM, Elemento O, Haucke V, Cantley LC, Toker A. The INPP4B Tumor Suppressor Modulates EGFR Trafficking and Promotes Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Cancer Discov. 2020 Jun 8:CD-19-1262.

Grace Perry  has joined the lab as a new Research Assistant. Welcome to the lab Grace!  

Alissandra Hillis has been awarded a Landry Cancer Research Fellowship for 2020! Congrats Ali!! 

Alissandra Hillis has been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Congrats Ali!!

Adrija Navarro has been awarded an F31 Ruth L. Kirchstein National Research Service Award from the NCI. Congrats Adrija!!

Laura Ghisolfi has left the lab and moved onto new and exciting adventures at Accent Therapeutics. Farewell and best of luck Laura!

Emily Cohen has left the lab and moved onto new and exciting adventures at Kronos Bio. Farewell and best of luck Emily! 

Renee Geck has left the lab and headed onto new and exciting adventures for her postdoc at the University of Washington Department of Genome Sciences. Farewell and best of luck Renee!

Paper published! On the same day that Renee Geck 

defends her PhD thesis, her paper published in the JBC!

 Geck RC, Foley JR, Murray Stewart T, Asara JM,

Casero RA Jr, Toker A. Inhibition of the polyamine synthesis

enzyme ornithine decarboxylase sensitizes triple-negative

breast cancer cells to cytotoxic chemotherapy.

J Biol Chem. 2020 doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.012376. 

Banner Event in the Toker Lab! Renee Geck defended

her PhD Thesis in the BBS program at HMS.

Congratulations Dr. Geck!!!

The Toker lab gathers for Super Bowl LIV which this year

due to an unfortunate administrative error does NOT feature

the New England Patriots. Still, there’s always next year..!

News and Views article by Alex Toker in Science magazine

on new paper on double PIK3CA mutations in cancer. 

    Toker A. Double trouble for cancer gene. Science. 2019;366(6466):685–686. doi:10.1126/science.aaz4016

Paper published! What a way to start the new year and decade! Congratulations to Emily Erickson, graduate student in the BBS Program, for a co-first paper. 

    You I, Erickson EC, Donovan KA, et al. Discovery of an AKT Degrader with Prolonged Inhibition of Downstream Signaling. Cell Chem Biol. 2020;27(1):66–73.e7. doi:10.1016/j.chembiol.2019.11.014


Alex gave a talk in the Department of Molecular Biology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, December 3rd

Annual Manning-Toker-Dibble labs Retreat at Oliver Lodge, Lake  Winnipesaukee, NH, September 25-27. 3 days of science, fun and games! Photos here

Alex gave a talk at the PTEN and its Pathways Symposium at BIDMC, Sept 24-25. 

Toker Lab Summer BBQ August 2019. Burgers, dogs and s’mores!

Toker Lab Summer Fun Day at the Barnstable County Fair on Cape Cod, July 27! Rides, goats, deep fried stuff, and so much more!!

Alex and Emily Erickson attended the FASEB Science Research Conference on Protein Kinases and Protein Phosphorylation in  Palm Springs, July 7-12. Alex gave a talk, and Emily presented

a short talk. Alex is the co-chair of this SRC in 2021 along with Anton Bennett, Yale U.  

Renee attended the Gordon Research Conference on Polyamines In Waterville Valley, NH. Renee was selected for a short talk, and won a travel award! Congrats Renee!

Alex gave a talk at the Center for Therapeutic Innovation International Showcase meeting at the University of Bath, UK, on June 25th. 

Alex and Hui attended and presented at a symposium at Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research on June 21st to celebrate Lew Cantley’s 70th birthday AND the approval of the PIK3CA inhibitor Piqray!! So many old friends and colleagues to celebrate with!

Ther lab bids farewell to Richard Thornton who heads off to Princeton for his PhD studies. Best of luck Richard!

The lab welcomes new research assistant Amber Chopelas. Welcome Amber!!

The lab welcomes back new BBS graduate student Alissandra Hillis who joins the Toker lab for her PhD research. Welcome Ali!!

Sam attended and presented a poster at the CSHL Meeting on Mechanisms of Metabolic Signaling

Alex receives a new R01 award from the National Cancer Institute!

Alex is part of a DFCI/HSPH/BIDMC team that receives a grant award from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to study the targeting of androgen receptor in breast cancer patients.

Renee receives an award from the PEO, the Philanthropic  Educational Organization, devoted to advancing women in science.  Congrats Renee!!

Adrija Navarro receives best poster prize at the annual Landry Cancer Biology Consortium Symposium. Congrats to Adrija!!

Sam Barritt and Adrija Navarro pass their pre-qualifying exams with flying colors!! Congrats!!

Lab Ski Trip at Gunstock, NH! Alpine and Nordic skiing, and some apes-ski! Photos here. 

Lab Dim Sum outing on St Patrick’s Day, of course! Yum!!

Team building and nerdy fun Lab outing at Boda Borg!

Alex receives a 2019 Exceptional Project Grant Award from the  Breast Cancer Alliance, to study precision medicine approaches to  target triple negative breast cancer!

The lab ‘celebrates’ another New England Patriots Super Bowl Victory!  That’s 6 for the home town team!! 

Alex gave a seminar in the Cancer Genetics and Genomics Department at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Buffalo, NY. 

The lab welcomes Alissandra Hillis for her second rotation in the HMS BBS Program. Welcome Ali!

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