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Judy Lieberman, MD, PhD

Judy Lieberman
Lieberman Laboratory
Research Center:
Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center
Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine (PCMM)
Medicine Research
Hematology/Oncology Research
Hospital Title:
Chair in Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Academic Title:
Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
Research Focus Area:
Cytotoxic T-lymphocytes
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Research Overview

Visit the Lieberman Lab

The Lieberman lab studies cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) that are key cells in the immune defense against viral infection and cancer. 

When CTL recognize an infected or transformed cell, they release the contents of their cytolytic granules into the synaptic cleft formed with the target cell. These granules contain serine proteases called granzymes, which induce programmed cell death or apoptosis. A major focus of the Lieberman laboratory is studying the molecular pathways activated by the granzymes. Granzyme A, the most abundant CTL protease, induces a novel form of apoptosis that is independent of the caspase pathway and results in single strand nicks of DNA. The Lieberman laboratory has identified novel mechanisms of mitochondrial and DNA damage activated by granzyme A. Other work aims to understand how cytotoxic T lymphocyte function is regulated, particularly in the setting of chronic infections, such as HIV-1.

The Lieberman laboratory also studies how RNA interference (RNAi) regulates normal cell differentiation and how it goes awry in cancer. A major focus is figuring out how RNAi can be harnessed to develop drugs to treat or prevent viral infection and cancer. Her group was the first to show that RNAi could be the basis for therapy in an animal model. They also were able to use small RNAs to inhibit sexual transmission of herpes virus in mice and are working to develop an RNAi-based topical microbicide to prevent HIV transmission. Another active area of research is developing ways of targetting small RNAs into specific cell types in vivo.

About Dr. Lieberman

Dr. Lieberman is a graduate of Radcliffe College. After earning a Ph.D. in physics from Rockefeller University, she was a high-energy physicist at the prestigious Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Later she earned an M.D. in the joint Harvard-MIT Program in Health, Science, and Technology, trained in internal medicine and hematology-oncology at Tufts Medical Center and was a postdoctoral fellow in immunology at MIT. In 2008, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center

Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center is one of the top research centers in the world for pediatric cancers and blood diseases. It brings together laboratory scientists and clinical researchers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital in a single program. We investigate pediatric cancers and non-malignant blood disorders from every angle—from examining cells under the microscope to tracking the effectiveness of current drug regimens using the most advanced molecular methods—so that we can create better treatments for children seen here and around the world.

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