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Markus H. Frank, MD
Associate Physician, Brigham and Women's Hospital
Associate Professor of Dermatology, Harvard Medical School

Brigham and Women's Hospital
Department of Medicine
75 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02115

Research Location: Harvard Institute of Medicine


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Research Narrative:

Dr. Frank’s laboratory research focuses on the physiological and pathological roles of the P-glycoprotein family of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) multidrug resistance transporters. His laboratory cloned and characterized the third member of this human gene family, ABCB5, which marks progenitor subpopulations in human skin and cancer stem cells in human malignant melanoma. Dr. Frank’s laboratory showed that ABCB5 functions as a drug resistance mediator in human melanoma and demonstrated that specific targeting of ABCB5 can sensitize melanoma cells to chemotherapy. In subsequent work, his laboratory discovered that ABCB5 expression identifies malignant melanoma-initiating cells (MMICs) that correlate with tumorigenic growth in vivo, and that ABCB5 is more abundant in human malignant melanoma than in benign melanocytic nevi in human patients. Furthermore, Dr. Frank’s laboratory demonstrated that ABCB5-positive MMICs can be specifically targeted to inhibit tumor growth, providing proof-of-principle for the potential therapeutic utility of the cancer stem cell concept. Additionally, Dr. Frank’s laboratory provided evidence for immunomodulatory functions of human cancer stem cells: Although MMICs with a key role in tumor formation and growth can be immunologically targeted to inhibit tumor development, they also express biomolecules that are immunoprotective. Thus, MMICs serve specific roles in evasion of antitumor immunity and melanoma immunotherapeutic resistance. In tandem with fundamental approaches to further dissect the functional roles of ABCB5 in physiological and cancer stem cells, Dr. Frank's laboratory explores the clinical relevance of ABCB5 as a biomarker of melanoma progression, prognosis, and outcome, and investigates the therapeutic efficacy of ABCB5 targeting in human malignant melanoma.

Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, 1992, MD magna cum laude
Harvard University, 1989, AB magna cum laude

Member, American Society for Clinical Investigation

Natasha Frank, MD, VA Boston Healthcare System, Scientific Collaborator

Dennis Orgill, MD, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Scientific Collaborator

Frank Stephen Hodi, MD, DFCI, Scientific Collaborator

George Murphy, MD, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Scientific Collaborator

Other Professional Activities:
Executive Committee Member, The Melanoma Research Working Group of BWH/DFCI
Co-Leader, Skin Program, Harvard Stem Cell Institute