Photo of Markus H. Frank,   M.D.

Markus H. Frank, M.D.

Brigham And Women's Hospital

Brigham And Women's Hospital
Phone: (617) 919-2993
Fax: (617) 730-0129

Markus H. Frank, M.D.

Brigham And Women's Hospital


  • Associate Professor, Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
  • Associate Professor, Dermatology, Harvard Medical School
  • Associate Physician, Medicine, Brigham And Women's Hospital
  • Member, Stem Cell Program, Boston Children's Hospital


Research Abstract

Dr. Frank's laboratory research, conducted in the Transplantation Research Program of Boston Children's Hospital and the Department of Dermatology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, focuses on the physiological and pathological roles of the human P-glycoprotein family of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters. His laboratory has cloned and characterized a novel human ABC transporter, ABCB5, which marks mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) subpopulations in human and murine skin and serves regulatory roles in stem cell fusion and cell fusion-dependent growth and differentiation. His laboratory has also recently discovered PD-1-dependent immunoregulatory functions of this unique cell subset in vitro and in vivo; as a result, research efforts are currently underway to further develop adult skin-derived ABCB5+ stem cells as a transplantable cell source for novel therapeutic applications in tissue engineering, regeneration and wound healing, and for stem cell-based modulation of transplant allograft rejection and autoimmune disorders. In the case of wound healing, skin-derived ABCB5+ cells are currently already being evaluated in an interventional phase IIA clinical trial ( Identifier: NCT02742844) for efficacy and safety in humans.

Dr. Frank's laboratory has also shown that ABCB5 serves as a multidrug resistance transporter in human malignant melanoma, conferring resistance to chemotherapy . Subsequent work has shown that ABCB5 expression 1) marks melanoma cells of stem cell phenotype and function; 2) correlates with tumorigenic growth of melanoma cells in vivo; and 3) is more abundant in human malignant melanoma than in benign melanocytic nevi in human patients (Schatton et al. Nature 2008). Moreover, genetically determined ABCB5 functionality correlates with clinical melanoma risk. Additionally, his laboratory has identified novel T-cell modulatory functions of ABCB5+ melanoma subpopulations that suggest specific roles for these melanoma stem cells in the evasion of antitumor immunity and in cancer immunotherapeutic resistance. Moreover, his laboratory has recently demonstrated that VEGFR-1 function in melanoma stem cells regulates vasculogenic mimicry and the associated stem cell-dependent production of the pro-proliferative melanoma mitogen,laminin, a novel molecular mechanism through which melanoma stem cells promote tumor growth that can be therapeutically targeted in preclinical tumor xenotransplantation models. Most recently, the Frank laboratory demonstrated that ABCB5 controls IL-1beta secretion in melanoma stem cells, which serves to maintain these slow-cycling, chemoresistant cells through an IL-1beta/IL8/CXCR1 cytokine signaling circuit. This cancer stem cell maintenance circuit involved reciprocal paracrine interactions with ABCB5-negative cancer cell populations. ABCB5 blockade induced cellular differentiation, reversed resistance to multiple chemotherapeutic agents, and impaired tumor growth in vivo. Together, these results defined a novel function for ABCB5 in cancer stem cell maintenance and tumor growth.

In tandem with fundamental approaches to further characterize the functional roles of ABCB5 in normal tissue-specific stem cells and cancer stem cells, Dr. Frank's laboratory explores the clinical relevance of ABCB5 as a biomarker of melanoma progression, prognosis and outcome, and investigates the therapeutic efficacy of ABCB5 targeting in melanoma and additional ABCB5-expressing human malignancies.


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  • Khattak MA, Reid A, Freeman J, Pereira M, McEvoy A, Lo J, Frank MH, Meniawy T, Didan A, Spencer I, Amanuel B, Millward M, Ziman M, Gray E. PD-L1 Expression on Circulating Tumor Cells May Be Predictive of Response to Pembrolizumab in Advanced Melanoma: Results from a Pilot Study. Oncologist 2020; 25:e520-e527. PubMed
  • Khattak MA, Reid A, Freeman J, Pereira M, McEvoy A, Lo J, Frank MH, Meniawy T, Didan A, Spencer I, Amanuel B, Millward M, Ziman M, Gray E. PD-L1 Expression on Circulating Tumor Cells May Be Predictive of Response to Pembrolizumab in Advanced Melanoma: Results from a Pilot Study. Oncologist 2019. PubMed
  • Vander Beken S, de Vries JC, Meier-Schiesser B, Meyer P, Jiang D, Sindrilaru A, Ferreira FF, Hainzl A, Schatz S, Muschhammer J, Scheurmann NJ, Kampilafkos P, Seitz AM, Dürselen L, Ignatius A, Kluth MA, Ganss C, Wlaschek M, Singh K, Maity P, Frank NY, Frank MH, Scharffetter-Kochanek K. Newly Defined ATP-binding cassette subfamily B member 5 Positive Dermal Mesenchymal Stem Cells Promote Healing of Chronic Iron-Overload Wounds via Secretion of Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist. Stem Cells 2019. PubMed
  • Tappenbeck N, Schröder HM, Niebergall-Roth E, Hassinger F, Dehio U, Dieter K, Kraft K, Kerstan A, Esterlechner J, Frank NY, Scharffetter-Kochanek K, Murphy GF, Orgill DP, Beck J, Frank MH, Ganss C, Kluth MA. In vivo safety profile and biodistribution of GMP-manufactured human skin-derived ABCB5-positive mesenchymal stromal cells for use in clinical trials. Cytotherapy 2019. PubMed
  • Aya-Bonilla C, Gray ES, Manikandan J, Freeman JB, Zaenker P, Reid AL, Khattak MA, Frank MH, Millward M, Ziman M. Immunomagnetic-Enriched Subpopulations of Melanoma Circulating Tumour Cells (CTCs) Exhibit Distinct Transcriptome Profiles. Cancers (Basel) 2019. PubMed
  • Guo Q, Grimmig T, Gonzalez G, Giobbie-Hurder A, Berg G, Carr N, Wilson BJ, Banerjee P, Ma J, Gold JS, Nandi B, Huang Q, Waaga-Gasser AM, Lian CG, Murphy GF, Frank MH, Gasser M, Frank NY. ATP-binding cassette member B5 (ABCB5) promotes tumor cell invasiveness in human colorectal cancer. J Biol Chem 2018. PubMed
  • Gonzalez G, Sasamoto Y, Ksander BR, Frank MH, Frank NY. Limbal stem cells: identity, developmental origin, and therapeutic potential. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Dev Biol 2017. PubMed
  • Webber BR, O'Connor KT, McElmurry RT, Durgin EN, Eide CR, Lees CJ, Riddle MJ, Mathews WE, Frank NY, Kluth MA, Ganss C, Moriarity BS, Frank MH, Osborn MJ, Tolar J. Rapid generation of Col7a1(-/-) mouse model of recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa and partial rescue via immunosuppressive dermal mesenchymal stem cells. Lab Invest 2017; 97:1218-1224. PubMed
  • Borchers S, Maβlo C, Müller CA, Tahedl A, Volkind J, Nowak Y, Umansky V, Esterlechner J, Frank MH, Ganss C, Kluth MA, Utikal J. Detection of ABCB5 tumour antigen-specific CD8(+) T cells in melanoma patients and implications for immunotherapy. Clin Exp Immunol 2017. PubMed
  • Aya-Bonilla CA, Marsavela G, Freeman JB, Lomma C, Frank MH, Khattak MA, Meniawy TM, Millward M, Warkiani ME, Gray ES, Ziman M. Isolation and detection of circulating tumour cells from metastatic melanoma patients using a slanted spiral microfluidic device. 2017; 8:67355-67368. PubMed
  • Jiang D, Muschhammer J, Qi Y, Kügler A, de Vries JC, Saffarzadeh M, Sindrilaru A, Beken SV, Wlaschek M, Kluth MA, Ganss C, Frank NY, Frank MH, Preissner KT, Scharffetter-Kochanek K. Suppression of Neutrophil-Mediated Tissue Damage-A Novel Skill of Mesenchymal Stem Cells. Stem Cells 2016. PubMed
  • Kleffel S, Lee N, Lezcano C, Wilson BJ, Sobolewski K, Saab KR, Mueller H, Zhan Q, Posch C, Elco CP, DoRosario A, Garcia SS, Thakuria M, Wang YE, Wang LC, Murphy GF, Frank MH, Schatton T. ABCB5-targeted chemoresistance reversal inhibits Merkel cell carcinoma growth. J Invest Dermatol 2016. PubMed
  • Schatton T, Schütte U, Frank MH. Effects of Malignant Melanoma Initiating Cells on T-Cell Activation. Methods Mol Biol 2016. PubMed
  • Lutz NW, Banerjee P, Wilson BJ, Ma J, Cozzone PJ, Frank MH. Expression of Cell-Surface Marker ABCB5 Causes Characteristic Modifications of Glucose, Amino Acid and Phospholipid Metabolism in the G3361 Melanoma-Initiating Cell Line. PLoS ONE 2016; 11:e0161803. PubMed
  • Ma J, Frank MH. Isolation of Circulating Melanoma Cells. Methods Mol Biol 2015. PubMed
  • Kleffel S, Posch C, Barthel SR, Mueller H, Schlapbach C, Guenova E, Elco CP, Lee N, Juneja VR, Zhan Q, Lian CG, Thomi R, Hoetzenecker W, Cozzio A, Dummer R, Mihm MC, Flaherty KT, Frank MH, Murphy GF, Sharpe AH, Kupper TS, Schatton T. Melanoma Cell-Intrinsic PD-1 Receptor Functions Promote Tumor Growth. Cell 2015; 162:1242-56. PubMed
  • Schatton T, Yang J, Kleffel S, Uehara M, Barthel SR, Schlapbach C, Zhan Q, Dudeney S, Mueller H, Lee N, de Vries JC, Meier B, Vander Beken S, Kluth MA, Ganss C, Sharpe AH, Waaga-Gasser AM, Sayegh MH, Abdi R, Scharffetter-Kochanek K, Murphy GF, Kupper TS, Frank NY, Frank MH. ABCB5 Identifies Immunoregulatory Dermal Cells. Cell Rep 2015. PubMed
  • Gray ES, Reid AL, Bowyer S, Calapre L, Siew K, Pearce R, Cowell L, Frank MH, Millward M, Ziman M. Circulating Melanoma Cell Subpopulations: Their Heterogeneity and Differential Responses to Treatment. J Invest Dermatol 2015. PubMed
  • de Waard NE, Kolovou PE, McGuire SP, Cao J, Frank NY, Frank MH, Jager MJ, Ksander BR. Expression of Multidrug Resistance Transporter ABCB5 in a Murine Model of Human Conjunctival Melanoma. Ocul Oncol Pathol 2015; 1:182-189. PubMed
  • Frank MH, Frank NY. Restoring the cornea from limbal stem cells. Regen Med 2015; 10:1-4. PubMed
  • Lee CW, Zhan Q, Lezcano C, Frank MH, Huang J, Larson AR, Lin JY, Wan MT, Lin PI, Ma J, Kleffel S, Schatton T, Lian CG, Murphy GF. Nestin depletion induces melanoma matrix metalloproteinases and invasion. Lab Invest 2014. PubMed
  • Murphy GF, Wilson BJ, Girouard SD, Frank NY, Frank MH. Stem cells and targeted approaches to melanoma cure. Mol Aspects Med 2014. PubMed
  • Wilson BJ, Saab KR, Ma J, Schatton T, Pütz P, Zhan Q, Murphy GF, Gasser M, Waaga-Gasser AM, Frank NY, Frank MH. ABCB5 maintains melanoma-initiating cells through a proinflammatory cytokine signaling circuit. Cancer Res 2014; 74:4196-207. PubMed
  • Ksander BR, Kolovou PE, Wilson BJ, Saab KR, Guo Q, Ma J, McGuire SP, Gregory MS, Vincent WJ, Perez VL, Cruz-Guilloty F, Kao WW, Call MK, Tucker BA, Zhan Q, Murphy GF, Lathrop KL, Alt C, Mortensen LJ, Lin CP, Zieske JD, Frank MH, Frank NY. ABCB5 is a limbal stem cell gene required for corneal development and repair. Nature 2014; 511:353-7. PubMed
  • Volpicelli ER, Lezcano C, Zhan Q, Girouard SD, Kindelberger DW, Frank MH, Frank NY, Crum CP, Murphy GF. The multidrug-resistance transporter ABCB5 is expressed in human placenta. Int J Gynecol Pathol 2013; 33:45-51. PubMed
  • Lin JY, Zhang M, Schatton T, Wilson BJ, Alloo A, Ma J, Qureshi AA, Frank NY, Han J, Frank MH. Genetically determined ABCB5 functionality correlates with pigmentation phenotype and melanoma risk. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2013. PubMed
  • Nedosekin DA, Sarimollaoglu M, Galanzha EI, Sawant R, Torchilin VP, Verkhusha VV, Ma J, Frank MH, Biris AS, Zharov VP. Synergy of photoacoustic and fluorescence flow cytometry of circulating cells with negative and positive contrasts. J Biophotonics 2013; 6:425-34. PubMed
  • Reid AL, Millward M, Pearce R, Lee M, Frank MH, Ireland A, Monshizadeh L, Rai T, Heenan P, Medic S, Kumarasinghe P, Ziman M. Markers of circulating tumour cells in the peripheral blood of patients with melanoma correlate with disease recurrence and progression. Br J Dermatol 2013; 168:85-92. PubMed
  • Cedeno-Laurent F, Opperman MJ, Barthel SR, Hays D, Schatton T, Zhan Q, He X, Matta KL, Supko JG, Frank MH, Murphy GF, Dimitroff CJ. Metabolic inhibition of galectin-1-binding carbohydrates accentuates antitumor immunity. J Invest Dermatol 2012. PubMed
  • Wilson BJ, Schatton T, Zhan Q, Gasser M, Ma J, Saab KR, Schanche R, Waaga-Gasser AM, Gold JS, Huang Q, Murphy GF, Frank MH, Frank NY. ABCB5 identifies a therapy-refractory tumor cell population in colorectal cancer patients. Cancer Res 2011. PubMed
  • Wilson BJ, Schatton T, Frank MH, Frank NY. Colorectal Cancer Stem Cells: Biology and Therapeutic Implications. 2011; 7:128-135. PubMed
  • Ho J, Pandey P, Schatton T, Sims-Lucas S, Khalid M, Frank MH, Hartwig S, Kreidberg JA. The pro-apoptotic protein Bim is a microRNA target in kidney progenitors. J Am Soc Nephrol 2011; 22:1053-63. PubMed
  • Laga AC, Zhan Q, Weishaupt C, Ma J, Frank MH, Murphy GF. SOX2 and nestin expression in human melanoma: an immunohistochemical and experimental study. Exp Dermatol 2011; 20:339-45. PubMed
  • Frank NY, Schatton T, Kim S, Zhan Q, Wilson BJ, Ma J, Saab KR, Osherov V, Widlund HR, Gasser M, Waaga-Gasser AM, Kupper TS, Murphy GF, Frank MH. VEGFR-1 expressed by malignant melanoma-initiating cells is required for tumor growth. Cancer Res 2011. PubMed
  • Ma J, Lin JY, Alloo A, Wilson BJ, Schatton T, Zhan Q, Murphy GF, Waaga-Gasser AM, Gasser M, Hodi FS, Frank NY, Frank MH. Isolation of tumorigenic circulating melanoma cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2010; 402:711-7. PubMed
  • Schatton T, Frank MH. The in vitro spheroid melanoma cell culture assay: cues on tumor initiation? J Invest Dermatol 2010; 130:1769-71. PubMed
  • Izawa A, Schatton T, Frank NY, Ueno T, Yamaura K, Pendse SS, Margaryan A, Grimm M, Gasser M, Waaga-Gasser AM, Sayegh MH, Frank MH. A novel in vivo regulatory role of P-glycoprotein in alloimmunity. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2010; 394:646-52. PubMed
  • Ma J, Frank MH. Tumor initiation in human malignant melanoma and potential cancer therapies. Anticancer Agents Med Chem 2010; 10:131-6. PubMed
  • Schatton T, Schütte U, Frank NY, Zhan Q, Hoerning A, Robles SC, Zhou J, Hodi FS, Spagnoli GC, Murphy GF, Frank MH. Modulation of T-Cell Activation by Malignant Melanoma Initiating Cells. Cancer Res 2010; 70:697-708. PubMed
  • Frank NY, Schatton T, Frank MH. The therapeutic promise of the cancer stem cell concept. J Clin Invest 2010; 120:41-50. PubMed
  • Frank NY,Frank MH. ABCB5 gene amplification in human leukemia cells. Leuk Res 2009; 33:1303-5. PubMed
  • Schatton T, Frank NY, Frank MH. Identification and targeting of cancer stem cells. Bioessays 2009; 31:1038-49. PubMed
  • Schatton T, Frank MH. Antitumor immunity and cancer stem cells. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2009; 1176:154-69. PubMed
  • Behjati S, Frank MH. The effects of tamoxifen on immunity. Curr Med Chem 2009; 16:3076-80. PubMed
  • Schatton T, Frank MH. Cancer stem cells and human malignant melanoma. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res 2008; 21:39-55. PubMed
  • Schatton T, Murphy GF, Frank NY, Yamaura K, Waaga-Gasser AM, Gasser M, Zhan Q, Jordan S, Duncan LM, Weishaupt C, Fuhlbrigge RC, Kupper TS, Sayegh MH, Frank MH. Identification of cells initiating human melanomas. Nature 2008; 451:345-9. PubMed
  • Pendse SS, Behjati S, Schatton T, Izawa A, Sayegh MH, Frank MH. P-glycoprotein functions as a differentiation switch in antigen presenting cell maturation. Am J Transplant 2006; 6:2884-93. PubMed
  • Frank NY, Kho AT, Schatton T, Murphy GF, Molloy MJ, Zhan Q, Ramoni MF, Frank MH, Kohane IS, Gussoni E. Regulation of myogenic progenitor proliferation in human fetal skeletal muscle by BMP4 and its antagonist Gremlin. J Cell Biol 2006; 175:99-110. PubMed
  • Frank NY, Margaryan A, Huang Y, Schatton T, Waaga-Gasser AM, Gasser M, Sayegh MH, Sadee W, Frank MH. ABCB5-mediated doxorubicin transport and chemoresistance in human malignant melanoma. Cancer Res 2005; 65:4320-33. PubMed
  • Frank NY, Pendse SS, Lapchak PH, Margaryan A, Shlain D, Doeing C, Sayegh MH, Frank MH. Regulation of progenitor cell fusion by ABCB5 P-glycoprotein, a novel human ATP-binding cassette transporter. J Biol Chem 2003; 278:47156-65. PubMed
  • Pendse SS, Briscoe DM, Frank MH. P-glycoprotein and alloimmune T-cell activation. 2011; 4:3-14. PubMed