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Researcher | Research Overview

Michael Klagsbrun, PhD is the Patricia K. Donahoe Professor of Surgery (Pathology) at Harvard Medical School and a member of the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children's Hospital. Dr. Klagsbrun is internationally recognized for his major contributions to cancer research as a pioneer in the field of vascular growth factors and their receptors. In particular, he has identified those factors that regulate angiogenesis, both physiological, as occurs in embryonic development, and pathological, as occurs in cancer. To begin, Dr. Klagsbrun reported the purification and characterization of the first angiogenesis stimulator, basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), based on the strong affinity of this growth factor for heparin, a novel principle in vascular biology. Subsequently, he purified and cloned heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF), a potent smooth muscle and pericyte growth factor that stabilizes blood vessels. More recently, he identified neuropilin (NRP) as a novel receptor for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a potent stimulator of angiogenesis. NRPs were previously shown to be regulators of axonal guidance. These studies have established the principle that similar molecular mechanisms regulate angiogenesis and axonal guidance that bind semaphorins. In addition, the Klagsbrun lab has been characterizing tumor endothelial cells. These cells unexpectedly have stem cell-like properties and can differentiate into cartilage and bone, suggesting a degree of instability that might affect tumor blood vessel function.

Dr. Klagsbrun received a bachelor's degree from City College of New York and his master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin. His thesis research was conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the supervision of Dr. Alex Rich. He spent his postdoctoral training as a Commissioned Officer for the National Institutes of Health's United States Public Health Service. In 1973, he joined Boston Children's Hospital as a Research Associate in Surgery. He rose through the ranks to become a tenured Professor at Harvard Medical School with an endowed chair. Dr. Klagsbrun has over 280 publications and has been a recipient of two nine-year MERIT Awards from the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Klagsbrun has given over 250 invited lectures. He has organized a number of prestigious conferences including Gordon, Keystone, New York Academy of Sciences, Boston Angiogenesis and the American Association for Cancer Research. He holds a number of patents for his work on growth factor and receptor structure and function. His neuropilin patents were licensed to a major biotech firm in 2006. Dr. Klagsbrun has enjoyed working with students as a lecturer in Biochemistry, as a mentor in the New Pathway and as the Holmes Society student research advisor. He is forever grateful to Dr. Judah Folkman for his encouragement and mentorship over many years.