David B. Sykes, M.D., Ph.D.

David B. Sykes, M.D., Ph.D.

Massachusetts General Hospital
Harvard Medical School
David Sykes headshot image

The Sykes lab aims to develop new treatments for patients with blood disorders, both benign (e.g. neutropenia), and malignant (e.g. leukemia).

David Sykes's research group is focused on understanding myeloid development, and how this process goes awry in the setting of infection or malignancy.

Most, if not all, cancer results from a disruption of the normal processes of development and maturation. We aim to understand how this normal differentiation goes awry in the setting of malignancy. Using an understanding of normal differentiation as a window into identifying new therapeutic targets, our goal is to make the first step along the road to drug discovery.

Our current projects involve:

  • developing differentiation therapy for patients with acute myeloid leukemia and other malignancies
  • identifying the mechanism that links the inhibition of the enzyme DHODH and pyrimidine starvation with myeloid differentiation, and
  • understanding normal neutrophil function with an eye to the development of therapy for patients with neutropenia.
  • Understanding how myeloid cells contribute to the tumor microenvironment in other malignancies, including metastatic prostate cancer.

We are also interesting in rare diseases as a window into new biology:

  • The TEMPI syndrome.
  • The Barth syndrome.
  • Patients with STAT1 gain-of-function mutations.

We are particularly interested in projects that stem from patient encounters and projects with direct therapeutic relevance.


David Sykes grew up on the chilly prairies of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and completed his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of Alberta. He transitioned to La Jolla, CA to begin the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at the University of California San Diego. His PhD research was mentored by Dr. Mark Kamps. Medical internship and residency were done at the Massachusetts General Hospital before fellowship in Hematology & Oncology at the combined Dana Farber Cancer Institute and MGH Cancer Center program. David did an additional year as Chief Resident in the Department of Medicine before starting his post-doctoral research with Dr. David Scadden in the Center for Regenerative Medicine.

David sees patients in clinic on Fridays and spends four 1-week blocks as inpatient attending on the Hematology consult service. He loves to teach hematology to the residents and fellows, as well as spend time at the microscope going over peripheral blood smears.

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