Marcus E. Peter, PhD
- Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology
- Leader of the Cancer Genetics Program of the Lurie Cancer Center
- Recruited to Northwestern in 2010
- view pdf
What are your clinical and research interests?
My lab has two major research interests. Area number one relates to apoptosis or programmed cell death as it is induced by a surface protein named Fas. In recent years nonapoptotic activities of this receptor have been a major focus of the lab. Area number two involves small noncoding RNAs, called micro(mi)RNAs. We have identified a number of miRNAs that are important for the progression of different cancers and now studying the role of miRNAs during tumor progression and how they can be used to treat cancer.
What is the single most important discovery in the field from the last 3-5 years?
I would name one in each of our two main areas of research. We recently published a paper demonstrating that the Fas receptor that has been viewed as a dedicated apoptosis inducing receptor actually functions as a growth factor for most solid cancers. On the miRNAs side I would like to mention a paper we published in 2008 on the discovery of a family of miRNAs (miR-200) that regulates tumor progression by maintaining epithelial cells. In fact miR-200 was found to be a powerful regulator of the so called epithelial-mesenchymal transition.
The Fas field is quite advanced and it is therefore time to use some of what we have learned to treat cancer. We are collaborating with a company to inhibit the tumor promoting activities of Fas in the context of ovarian cancer. The miRNA filed in contrast is very young and there is still a lot to learn about what miRNAs are doing in the context of cancer. However, also in this area we are embarking on attempting to treat cancer with miRNAs.
Tell us more about your professional achievements.
I was the recipient of the award for the best thesis by the University of Bayreuth/Germany for my PhD work in 1988. The cloning of caspase-8 was voted by Science as one of the ten most important scientific discoveries in 1996 and our caspase-8 cloning paper became the third most cited paper in Biology in 1998. In addition my work was recognized by receiving the Walther and Christine Richtzenhain Prize for Experimental Cancer Research in 1999 and by giving the Vicent J. Kidd Annual Memorial Lecture (at St. Jude Hospital) in 2006.
Dr. Peter with his labmates: (in the photo, from the left): Annika Hau, Shirley DeChant, Abbas Hadji, and You-Jia Hua. Absentees on the day of the shoot: Andrea Murmann and Tara Salley
I grew up in Frankfurt Germany where I finished college. I then moved on to do my graduate work at the University of Bayreuth, Germany where I also met my wife. In my free time I like to make music and movies. I enjoy reading and going to art galleries and to art museums. To relax I ride my bike, swim and travel. I also like dining and going to a pub once in a while.