John Blenis   Professor of Pharmacology

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The research of Dr. John Blenis, the newly appointed Anna Maria and Stephen Kellen Professor of Cancer Research and Professor of Pharmacology in the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medical College, is aimed at defining critical signal transduction mechanisms and how altered cellular signaling promotes carcinogenesis.  While at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Blenis discovered that Ras connected tyrosine kinases to the serine/threonine kinases Raf, ERK-MAP kinase and RSK, and that activated ERK and RSK translocate to the nucleus.  These studies provided the molecular framework for how signals from outside the cell transverse the cytoplasm to the nucleus to coordinate the regulation of gene expression, cell migration survival, metabolism and proliferation.  He then discovered several molecular sensors that convert subtle differences in ERK activity and cell location into specific biological responses such as EMT and metastasis.  Dr. Blenis also discovered the link between tyrosine kinases, PI3-kinases (PI3K) and serine/threonine S6 kinase (S6K), and that S6K activation is blocked by the mTOR inhibitor and natural product, rapamycin.  Rapalogs are now in several preclinical and clinical trials for both monotherapy and combination strategies.  Dr. Blenis is continuing to define how mTOR/S6K regulates cell metabolism, gene expression, mRNA processing, protein synthesis and cell growth.

By defining the signaling landscape surrounding the Ras/ERK and PI3K/mTOR pathways, the research from Dr. Blenis' lab has supported the identification of cancer-associated biomarkers and therapeutic targets including several kinases and metabolic enzymes, which are now candidates for cancer therapy.  His laboratory is also investigating the molecular mechanisms leading to the development of drug resistance to targeted therapies with the goal of discovering how to overcome resistance.  As part of this program, his laboratory has developed and completed several small molecule  screens that have revealed potential combination approaches for selectively killing cancer cells.


In the past 25 years as a faculty member, Dr. Blenis has trained or is currently training 40 postdoctoral fellows and 17 graduate students.  Several of the past trainees are now in independent academic positions at major research universities and institutes including Yale University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, Seoul National University, Academia Sinica, Tufts University, University of Washington, Yeshiva University-Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the Van Andle Institute, University of Vermont, University of Montreal and University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center.  Several others hold senior positions in the biopharmaceutical industry.  The Blenis Lab currently has 5 graduate students, 9 postdoctoral fellows, 2 research assistants, 1 instructors and 1 research assistant professor.

Dr. Blenis' honors include the ACS Junior Faculty award, AHA Established Investigator award, the LAM Foundation Established Investigator award an the NIH/NCI MERIT award.

Dr. Blenis is a faculty member in the Tri-Institutional PhD Program in Chemical Biology.


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  • Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University