Kornelia Polyak is Professor of Medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, and a co-leader of the Dana-Farber Harvard Cancer Center Cancer Cell Biology Program. Dr. Polyak was born in Jászbereny, Hungary and grew up on Szolnok, Hungary. She obtained her MD from Albert Szent-Györgyi Medical University, Szeged, Hungary, and her PhD from Cornell University Graduate School of Medical Sciences, New York, NY. Following postdoctoral research in cancer genetics at Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, Baltimore, MD, she joined Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the faculty of Harvard Medical School. Dr. Polyak’s research is focused on breast tumor evolution. She is recognized for seminal contributions to the tumor microenvironment and tumor heterogeneity fields that lead to major advances in our understanding of breast tumorigenesis.

Research Interests

Kornelia Polyak's laboratory is dedicated to improving the clinical management of breast cancer patients by understanding of breast tumor evolution. She has devoted much effort to develop new ways to study tumors as a whole and to apply interdisciplinary approaches. She demonstrated that gene expression and epigenetic alterations occur in all cell types during breast tumor progression and proposed that the progression of in situ to invasive breast carcinomas is promoted by microenvironmental alterations. They found that in situ carcinoma progression is limited by an activate immune environment that becomes muted in invasive tumors. She has also made revolutionary contributions to the tumor heterogeneity field. Her lab was one of the first to characterize cellular phenotypic and genetic heterogeneity in breast cancer and developed new technologies to study tumors at the single cell level in situ and as ecosystems. She has been investigating the functional relevance of intratumor subclonal heterogeneity and determined that non-cell-autonomous drivers play a key role in this process.

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Primary Section

Section 41: Medical Genetics, Hematology, and Oncology