Patricia K. Donahoe, M.D.
Harvard Medical School
The Pediatric Surgical Research Laboratories focus on Developmental Biology, some areas of which hold promise for clinical application to benefit both pediatric and adult patients.
Patricia Donahoe, M.D., David MacLaughlin, Ph.D., and Jose Teixeira, Ph.D., have purified and cloned TGF-b family of cytokines, including Mullerian Inhibiting Substance (MIS), which directs normal male phenotypic development in the fetus by causing regression of the female reproductive ducts and their receptors. This fetal regressor, MIS, is now being developed as a novel treatment for cancers arising in the reproductive tracts and work is underway for scale-up production for use in the clinical setting of ovarian cancer. The laboratory is studying the stem cell nature of the surface epithelium of the ovary that goes awry in ovarian cancer. Congenital anomalies such as Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia are being studied to decipher the genetic pathways that are abnormal in patients with this defect.
Patricia K. Donahoe is Director of Pediatric Surgical Research Laboratories and Chief Emerita of Pediatric Surgical Services at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she has worked virtually her entire career, and the Marshall K. Bartlett Professor of Surgery (Tenured) at Harvard Medical School. She received her M.D. from Columbia University and her B.S. from Boston University, where she currently serves on the Board of Trustees. She is a member and past Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board at St. Judes Medical Center and has been a member of the Scientific Advisory Board at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and of the NICHD National Advisory Council.
Donahoe has published over 230 peer-reviewed publications in developmental biology, concentrating on Mullerian Inhibiting Substance as a potential anticancer agent against human ovarian carcinomas, as well as the genetics of sex differentiation and a number of other congenital anomalies for which she has been steadily funded by the NIH. She and her colleagues, particularly David MacLaughlin, hold a number of patents on MIS. They purified the human MIS, cloned the MIS gene and that of its receptors, studied their regulation and their roles in the growth, diagnosis, and treatment of ovarian and other reproductive tumors, and used MIS as a marker in the diagnosis of human tumors in human intersex disorders.
Donahoe is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She served as President of the Boston Surgical Society and is President-elect of the American Pediatric Surgical Association. She has received many research prizes and honorary degrees for her work on MIS but her fondest dream is to see it developed as a therapeutic for ovarian and other reproductive cancers.