Photo of Sandra S. McAllister,  PhD

Sandra S. McAllister, PhD

Brigham And Women's Hospital

Brigham And Women's Hospital
Phone: (617) 525-4929
Fax: (617) 525-4986

Sandra S. McAllister, PhD

Brigham And Women's Hospital


  • Associate Professor, Medicine, Harvard Medical School
  • Associate Scientist, Hematology Division, Brigham And Women's Hospital


Research Abstract

Metastasis affects ~30% of breast cancer patients, and is responsible for nearly all cancer-related deaths, but by the time metastases are detected, patients are not treated with curative intent. In these patients, tumor cells had clearly disseminated from the primary tumor prior to surgery but remained indolent for varying periods of time. Very little is known about processes by which indolent disseminated tumor cells convert to life-threatening disease. Hence, it is currently impossible to accurately predict which patients will experience disease relapse.

Our lab studies the early phases of metastatic disease when patients harbor indolent tumor cells in the periphery at the time of their primary diagnosis. We previously showed that certain triple-negative breast cancers systemically support the outgrowth of disseminated, otherwise indolent tumors by secreting cytokines that activate bone marrow hematopoietic cells to become pro-tumorigenic (McAllister, et al., Cell, 2008; Elkabets, et al., JCI, 2011; Castano, et al, Ca Disc, 2013). Using models of luminal breast cancer, we discovered that certain tumors promote metastatic outgrowth by supporting angiogenesis via platelet activation (Kuznetsov, et al., Ca Disc, 2012). We termed this action-at-a-distance “systemic instigation”.

Our research is focused on identifying systemic factors that contribute to tumor progression and finding ways to interdict their function. Our findings highlight the systemic environment as an important component of disease progression that can be exploited to more accurately identify patients who would benefit from the appropriate therapies before they relapse.

Publications from Harvard Catalyst Profiles

Powered by Harvard Catalyst
  • Guo Q, Malloy MW, Roweth HG, McAllister SS, Italiano JE, Battinelli EM. Platelets upregulate tumor programmed death-ligand 1 in an epidermal growth factor receptor-dependent manner in vitro. Blood Adv 2022. PubMed
  • Tarantino P, Barroso-Sousa R, Garrido-Castro AC, McAllister SS, Guerriero JL, Mittendorf E, Curigliano G, Tolaney SM. Understanding resistance to immune checkpoint inhibitors in advanced breast cancer. Expert Rev Anticancer Ther 2022; 22:141-153. PubMed
  • Goldberg J, Pastorello RG, Vallius T, Davis J, Cui YX, Agudo J, Waks AG, Keenan T, McAllister SS, Tolaney SM, Mittendorf EA, Guerriero JL. The Immunology of Hormone Receptor Positive Breast Cancer. 2021; 12:674192. PubMed
  • Roweth HG, Malloy M, Goreczny G, Johnson KE, McAllister SS, Italiano JE, Battinelli E. Megakaryocyte Reprogramming in Breast Cancer. Blood 2019; 134:12. PubMed
  • Janiszewska M, Tabassum DP, Castaño Z, Cristea S, Yamamoto KN, Kingston NL, Murphy KC, Shu S, Harper NW, Del Alcazar CG, Alečković M, Ekram MB, Cohen O, Kwak M, Qin Y, Laszewski T, Luoma A, Marusyk A, Wucherpfennig KW, Wagle N, Fan R, Michor F, McAllister SS, Polyak K. Subclonal cooperation drives metastasis by modulating local and systemic immune microenvironments. Nat Cell Biol 2019; 21:879-888. PubMed
  • Sceneay J, Goreczny GJ, Wilson K, Morrow S, DeCristo MJ, Ubellacker JM, Qin Y, Laszewski T, Stover DG, Barrera V, Hutchinson JN, Freedman RA, Mittendorf EA, McAllister SS. Interferon Signaling is Diminished with Age and is Associated with Immune Checkpoint Blockade Efficacy in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. 2019. PubMed
  • Alečković M, McAllister SS, Polyak K. Metastasis as a systemic disease: molecular insights and clinical implications. Biochim Biophys Acta Rev Cancer 2019; 1872:89-102. PubMed
  • Castaño Z, San Juan BP, Spiegel A, Pant A, DeCristo MJ, Laszewski T, Ubellacker JM, Janssen SR, Dongre A, Reinhardt F, Henderson A, Del Rio AG, Gifford AM, Herbert ZT, Hutchinson JN, Weinberg RA, Chaffer CL, McAllister SS. IL-1β inflammatory response driven by primary breast cancer prevents metastasis-initiating cell colonization. Nat Cell Biol 2018; 20:1084-1097. PubMed
  • Ubellacker JM, Baryawno N, Severe N, DeCristo MJ, Sceneay J, Hutchinson JN, Haider MT, Rhee CS, Qin Y, Gregory WM, Garrido-Castro AC, Holen I, Brown JE, Coleman RE, Scadden DT, McAllister SS. Modulating bone marrow hematopoietic lineage potential to prevent bone metastasis in breast cancer. Cancer Res 2018. PubMed
  • Goel S, DeCristo MJ, McAllister SS, Zhao JJ. CDK4/6 Inhibition in Cancer: Beyond Cell Cycle Arrest. Trends Cell Biol 2018. PubMed
  • Lee JJ, van de Ven RAH, Zaganjor E, Ng MR, Barakat A, Demmers JJPG, Finley LWS, Gonzalez Herrera KN, Hung YP, Harris IS, Jeong SM, Danuser G, McAllister SS, Haigis MC. Inhibition of epithelial cell migration and Src/FAK signaling by SIRT3. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2018; 115:7057-7062. PubMed
  • Olive JF, Qin Y, DeCristo MJ, Laszewski T, Greathouse F, McAllister SS. Accounting for tumor heterogeneity when using CRISPR-Cas9 for cancer progression and drug sensitivity studies. PLoS ONE 2018; 13:e0198790. PubMed
  • Goel S, DeCristo MJ, Watt AC, BrinJones H, Sceneay J, Li BB, Khan N, Ubellacker JM, Xie S, Metzger-Filho O, Hoog J, Ellis MJ, Ma CX, Ramm S, Krop IE, Winer EP, Roberts TM, Kim HJ, McAllister SS, Zhao JJ. CDK4/6 inhibition triggers anti-tumour immunity. Nature 2017; 548:471-475. PubMed
  • Sceneay J, McAllister SS. The skinny on obesity and cancer. Nat Cell Biol 2017; 19:887-888. PubMed
  • Ubellacker JM, Haider MT, DeCristo MJ, Allocca G, Brown NJ, Silver DP, Holen I, McAllister SS. Zoledronic acid alters hematopoiesis and generates breast tumor-suppressive bone marrow cells. Breast Cancer Res 2017; 19:23. PubMed
  • Olsen SN, Wronski A, Castaño Z, Dake B, Malone C, De Raedt T, Enos M, DeRose YS, Zhou W, Guerra S, Loda M, Welm A, Partridge AH, McAllister SS, Kuperwasser C, Cichowski K. Loss of RasGAP Tumor Suppressors Underlies the Aggressive Nature of Luminal B Breast Cancers. 2017. PubMed
  • Henry WS, Laszewski T, Tsang T, Beca F, Beck AH, McAllister SS, Toker A. Aspirin Suppresses Growth in PI3K-Mutant Breast Cancer by Activating AMPK and Inhibiting mTORC1 Signaling. Cancer Res 2017. PubMed
  • Ubellacker JM, McAllister SS. The unresolved role of systemic factors in bone metastasis. J Bone Oncol 2016; 5:96-99. PubMed
  • Marsh T, Wong I, Sceneay J, Barakat A, Qin Y, Sjödin A, Alspach E, Nilsson B, Stewart SA, McAllister SS. Hematopoietic Age at Onset of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Dictates Disease Aggressiveness and Progression. Cancer Res 2016; 76:2932-43. PubMed
  • McAllister SS, Weinberg RA. The tumour-induced systemic environment as a critical regulator of cancer progression and metastasis. Nat Cell Biol 2014; 16:717-27. PubMed
  • Qin Y, McAllister SS. SPSB1 may have MET its match during breast cancer recurrence. 2014; 4:760-1. PubMed
  • Alspach E, Flanagan KC, Luo X, Ruhland MK, Huang H, Pazolli E, Donlin MJ, Marsh T, Piwnica-Worms D, Monahan J, Novack DV, McAllister SS, Stewart SA. p38MAPK plays a crucial role in stromal-mediated tumorigenesis. 2014. PubMed
  • Redig AJ, McAllister SS. Breast cancer as a systemic disease: a view of metastasis. J. Intern. Med. 2013; 274:113-26. PubMed
  • Castaño Z, Marsh T, Tadipatri R, Kuznetsov HS, Al-Shahrour F, Paktinat M, Greene-Colozzi A, Nilsson B, Richardson AL, McAllister SS. Stromal EGF and igf-I together modulate plasticity of disseminated triple-negative breast tumors. 2013; 3:922-35. PubMed
  • Marsh T, Pietras K, McAllister SS. Fibroblasts as architects of cancer pathogenesis. Biochim Biophys Acta 2013. PubMed
  • Kuznetsov HS, Marsh T, Markens BA, Castaño Z, Greene-Colozzi A, Hay SA, Brown VE, Richardson AL, Signoretti S, Battinelli EM, McAllister SS. Identification of luminal breast cancers that establish a tumor-supportive macroenvironment defined by proangiogenic platelets and bone marrow-derived cells. 2012. PubMed
  • Castaño Z, Fillmore CM, Kim CF, McAllister SS. The bed and the bugs: interactions between the tumor microenvironment and cancer stem cells. Semin Cancer Biol 2012; 22:462-70. PubMed
  • McAllister SS. Got a light? Illuminating lung cancer. Sci Transl Med 2012; 4:142fs22. PubMed
  • Elkabets M, Gifford AM, Scheel C, Nilsson B, Reinhardt F, Bray MA, Carpenter AE, Jirström K, Magnusson K, Ebert BL, Pontén F, Weinberg RA, McAllister SS. Human tumors instigate granulin-expressing hematopoietic cells that promote malignancy by activating stromal fibroblasts in mice. J Clin Invest 2011; 121:784-99. PubMed
  • Castaño Z, Tracy K, McAllister SS. The tumor macroenvironment and systemic regulation of breast cancer progression. Int J Dev Biol 2011; 55:889-97. PubMed
  • McAllister SS, Weinberg RA. Tumor-host interactions: a far-reaching relationship. J Clin Oncol 2010; 28:4022-8. PubMed
  • Godar S, Ince TA, Bell GW, Feldser D, Donaher JL, Bergh J, Liu A, Miu K, Watnick RS, Reinhardt F, McAllister SS, Jacks T, Weinberg RA. Growth-inhibitory and tumor- suppressive functions of p53 depend on its repression of CD44 expression. Cell 2008; 134:62-73. PubMed
  • McAllister SS, Gifford AM, Greiner AL, Kelleher SP, Saelzler MP, Ince TA, Reinhardt F, Harris LN, Hylander BL, Repasky EA, Weinberg RA. Systemic endocrine instigation of indolent tumor growth requires osteopontin. Cell 2008; 133:994-1005. PubMed