Joshua LaBaer, BSc, MD, PhD

Joshua LaBaer, BSc, MD, PhD

If not for BCRF/PFP, we could never have produced the largest collection of full length human genes for research nor identified novel drug-targets and pathways that may lead to more effective and targeted personalized treatment.

Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics
Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
The Biodesign Institute
Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona

Areas of Focus:  Metastasis and Tumor Biology

Current Research:

  • Seeking to identify new therapeutic targets in aggressive breast cancer.
  • Laboratory studies are conducted to confirm a potential target for the treatment of triple negative and basal-like breast cancers.
  • Results from these studies will provide new insight into potential new targets for combination approaches and personalized therapy for patients with aggressive breast cancers.

Triple negative and basal-like breast cancers are aggressive disease with a high likelihood of spreading to different parts of the body–a process called metastasis. Few treatment options exist for patients with these highly drug resistant types of breast cancer. Dr. LaBaer is conducting studies focused on ways to restore a powerful tumor suppressing gene called TP53 that is often shut down in triple negative and basal-like breast cancers.

Full Research Summary

Full Research Summary:

Basal-like breast cancer (BLBC) and triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) are particularly aggressive diseases with a high rate of metastasis. Dr. LaBaer’s team is focused on identifying genes that are especially important in these cancers so that therapies can be designed to treat BLBC, TNBC, and other aggressive cancers.

A key driver in TNBC and BLBC is a gene called TP53. Defective TP53 proteins work with numerous “co-driver” mutations that cause diverse cancer behaviors. Hence, identification of the collaborative mutant genes is important for designing a combined approach that targets all the drivers of the cancer.

Using genome editing technologies, Dr. LaBaer’s team discovered individual mutations that can initiate the metastasis process in collaboration of mutant p53. In the coming year, the team will work to validate these findings and expand the search to identify combinatorial mutations that lead to cancer progression.

The outcome of this comprehensive study will advance our knowledge on how breast cancers become aggressive and identify potential new targets for combination approaches for personalized medicine.


Joshua LaBaer is one of the nation’s foremost investigators in the rapidly expanding field of personalized medicine. Formerly director of the Harvard Institute of Proteomics (HIP), he was recruited to ASU’s Biodesign Institute as the first Piper Chair in Personalized Medicine.  Dr. LaBaer’s efforts involve leveraging the Center’s formidable resources for the discovery and validation of biomarkers—unique molecular fingerprints of disease—which can provide early warning for those at risk of major illnesses, including cancer and diabetes. This work is carried out in conjunction with the Partnership for Personalized Medicine, a multi-institution effort that includes the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute in Seattle.

Dr. LaBaer is a board certified physician in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology and was an Instructor and Clinical Fellow in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and now serves as Adjunct Professor of Medicine, Mayo Clinic. He has contributed to over 140 original research publications, is an associate editor of the Journal of Proteome Research, a member of the editorial boards of Analytical Biochemistry, Current Opinion in Biotechnology, Cancer Biomarkers, Molecular Biosystems, and Clinical Proteomics. Formerly a member of the NCI’s Board of Scientific Advisors, he serves as chair of the NCI’s Early Detection Research Network Executive Committee and Co-Chair of its Steering Committee. He is the president of the US Human Proteome Organization and serves on a number of government and industry scientific advisory boards. He earned his medical degree and doctorate (biochemistry and biophysics) at University of California, San Francisco.