Photo of Stephen A. Cannistra,  MD

Stephen A. Cannistra, MD

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Phone: (617) 667-1908
Fax: (617) 975-5598

Stephen A. Cannistra, MD

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center


  • Professor, Medicine, Harvard Medical School
  • Attending Physician, Medical Oncology Service, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  • Director, Gynecologic Medical Oncology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center



  • Member, Clinical Science Coordinating Committee

Research Abstract

The goal of my research and clinical efforts is to improve the therapy of patients with gynecologic malignancies such as epithelial ovarian cancer. Our program conducts several areas of investigation in a variety of relevant areas including drug resistance, angiogenesis, homologous recombination, and immune checkpoint regulation in ovarian cancer. We have discovered that abnormalities in the pathway of programmed cell death, or apoptosis, may explain at least some of the resistance observed with paclitaxel (Taxol TM), one of the most active agents used in the treatment of patients with this disease. Specifically, we have observed that tumor cells that lack expression of the BAX pro-apoptotic protein are relatively resistant to paclitaxel, both in vitro and in the clinic, and that low levels of BAX predict for inferior response rates and disease-free survivals. By using microarray technology, we have identified unique gene signatures that may have important prognostic value, as well as predictive value in identifying patients more likely to response to PARP inhibitors. Through our clinical investigation efforts we have defined an important role for anti-angiogenic therapy in ovarian cancer treatment (bevacizumab) and have expanded these observations by developing preclinical models that allow us to better understand the anti-angiogenic potential of thrombospondin derivatives in this disease. Finally, we have been investigating the pathways involved in immune checkpoint regulation, specifically related to PD-L1 expression in ovarian cancer, in order to better predict which patients may benefit from therapies that specifically interfere with this process (such as antibodies against CTLA-4, PD-1, and PD-L1). It is hoped that a combination of these approaches will eventually lead to improvements in survival for women with gynecologic malignancies.


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  • Liu JF, Cannistra SA. Emerging role for bevacizumab in combination with chemotherapy for patients with platinum-resistant ovarian cancer. J Clin Oncol 2014; 32:1287-9. PubMed
  • Goodwin PJ, Ballman KV, Small EJ, Cannistra SA. Evaluation of treatment benefit in Journal of Clinical Oncology. J Clin Oncol 2013; 31:1123-4. PubMed
  • Haller DG, Cannistra SA. Providing protocol information for journal of clinical oncology readers: what practicing clinicians need to know. J Clin Oncol 2011; 29:1091. PubMed
  • Verweij J, Disis ML, Cannistra SA. Phase I studies of drug combinations. J Clin Oncol 2010; 28:4545-6. PubMed
  • Konstantinopoulos PA, Spentzos D, Karlan BY, Taniguchi T, Fountzilas E, Francoeur N, Levine DA, Cannistra SA. Gene expression profile of BRCAness that correlates with responsiveness to chemotherapy and with outcome in patients with epithelial ovarian cancer. J Clin Oncol 2010; 28:3555-61. PubMed
  • Cannistra SA. Evaluating New Regimens in Recurrent Ovarian Cancer: How Much Evidence Is Good Enough? J Clin Oncol 2010; 28:3101-3. PubMed
  • Penson RT, Dizon DS, Cannistra SA, Roche MR, Krasner CN, Berlin ST, Horowitz NS, Disilvestro PA, Matulonis UA, Lee H, King MA, Campos SM. Phase II study of carboplatin, paclitaxel, and bevacizumab with maintenance bevacizumab as first-line chemotherapy for advanced mullerian tumors. J Clin Oncol 2009; 28:154-9. PubMed
  • Matulonis UA, Berlin S, Ivy P, Tyburski K, Krasner C, Zarwan C, Berkenblit A, Campos S, Horowitz N, Cannistra SA, Lee H, Lee J, Roche M, Hill M, Whalen C, Sullivan L, Tran C, Humphreys BD, Penson RT. Cediranib, an oral inhibitor of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor kinases, is an active drug in recurrent epithelial ovarian, fallopian tube, and peritoneal cancer. J Clin Oncol 2009; 27:5601-6. PubMed
  • Cannistra SA. Phase II Trials in Journal of Clinical Oncology. J Clin Oncol 2009; 27:3073-6. PubMed
  • Konstantinopoulos PA, Spentzos D, Cannistra SA. Gene-expression profiling in epithelial ovarian cancer. Nat Clin Pract Oncol 2008; 5:577-87. PubMed
  • Cannistra SA. Challenges and pitfalls of combining targeted agents in phase I studies. J Clin Oncol 2008; 26:3665-7. PubMed
  • Comander AH, Cannistra SA. A feasibility study of low-dose, prolonged oral topotecan in patients with advanced ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal serous cancer who have attained a complete clinical response following platinum-based chemotherapy. Int J Gynecol Cancer 2007; 18:51-8. PubMed
  • Konstantinopoulos PA,Fountzilas E,Pillay K,Zerbini LF,Libermann TA,Cannistra SA,Spentzos D. Carboplatin-induced gene expression changes in vitro are prognostic of survival in epithelial ovarian cancer. BMC Med Genomics 2008; 1:59. PubMed
  • Cannistra SA. BRCA-1 in sporadic epithelial ovarian cancer: lessons learned from the genetics of hereditary disease. Clin Cancer Res 2007; 13:7225-7. PubMed
  • Cannistra SA, Matulonis UA, Penson RT, Hambleton J, Dupont J, Mackey H, Douglas J, Burger RA, Armstrong D, Wenham R, McGuire W. Phase II study of bevacizumab in patients with platinum-resistant ovarian cancer or peritoneal serous cancer. J Clin Oncol 2007; 25:5180-6. PubMed
  • Spentzos D, Cannistra SA, Grall F, Levine DA, Pillay K, Libermann TA, Mantzoros CS. IGF axis gene expression patterns are prognostic of survival in epithelial ovarian cancer. Endocr Relat Cancer 2007; 14:781-90. PubMed
  • Cannistra SA. Performance of biopsies in clinical research. J Clin Oncol 2007; 25:1454-5. PubMed
  • Cannistra SA. Gynecologic oncology or medical oncology: what's in a name? J Clin Oncol 2007; 25:1157-9. PubMed
  • Cannistra SA. Intraperitoneal chemotherapy comes of age. N Engl J Med 2006; 354:77-9. PubMed
  • Spentzos D, Levine DA, Kolia S, Otu H, Boyd J, Libermann TA, Cannistra SA. Unique gene expression profile based on pathologic response in epithelial ovarian cancer. J Clin Oncol 2005; 23:7911-8. PubMed
  • Spentzos D, Levine DA, Ramoni MF, Joseph M, Gu X, Boyd J, Libermann TA, Cannistra SA. Gene expression signature with independent prognostic significance in epithelial ovarian cancer. J Clin Oncol 2004; 22:4648-58. PubMed
  • Cannistra SA, Gershenson DM, Recht A. Ovarian Cancer, Peritoneal Carcinoma, and Fallopian Tube Carcinoma 2014.
  • Christina Herold and Stephen A. Cannistra. Gynecologic Cancer. In: Dale DC, Federman DD, ed. American College of Physicians (ACP) Medicine, 2013 edition Scientific American Medicine. 2014.
  • Joyce Liu and Stephen A. Cannistra. Emerging Role for Bevacizumab in Combination with Chemotherapy for Patients with Platinum-Resistant Ovarian Cancer 2014.