Lewis Cantley is Director of the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Chief of the Division of Signal Transduction, and holds the William Bosworth Castle Chair in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and recently accepted the position of Director of the Weill Cornell Cancer Center. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in chemistry from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 1971, and obtained a Ph.D. in biophysical chemistry from Cornell in 1975. He did postdoctoral research at Harvard from 1975 until 1978, when he was appointed Assistant Professor of Biochemistry there.
Dr. Cantley’s early work focused on enzymes that transport small molecules across cell membranes. He pioneered the application of fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) for studying such processes. In the mid 1980s, he focused his research on mechanisms of cellular responses to hormones and growth factors, which led to the discovery of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway.
His subsequent research as a professor at Tufts University School of Medicine from 1985 to 1992 and at Harvard Medical School from 1992 to today has focused on characterizing the mechanism by which PI3K is activated by growth factors and oncogenes, and elucidating pathways downstream of PI3K, including the AKT/PKB signaling pathway. In the course of this work, Dr. Cantley’s laboratory developed an oriented peptide library approach that has revealed the structural basis for regulated interaction of signaling proteins. This technique has also led to a bioinformatics approach for predicting signaling pathways on the basis of gene sequences. Currently, Dr. Cantley is exploring the role of the PI3K pathway in cancer and diabetes by developing mouse models in which genes for enzymes in this pathway are altered. Last year, he received a grant from Stand Up 2 Cancer, a high-profile initiative created to bring new cancer treatments to patients in a faster time frame. With this, Dr. Cantley is leading a team of researchers who are investigating the role of PI3K in the development of breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers.
Dr. Cantley was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999 and to the National Academy of Sciences in 2001. Among his other awards are the ASBMB Avanti Award for Lipid Research in 1998, the Heinrich Weiland Preis for Lipid Research in 2000, the Caledonian Prize from the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2002, the 2005 Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Cancer Research, the 2009 Rolf Luft Award for Diabetes and Endocrinology from the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, and the 2011 Pasrow Prize for Cancer Research.