Skip Navigation

David S. Pellman, MD

Pediatric Hematology/Oncology


  • Margaret M. Dyson Professor of Pediatric Oncology
  • Professor of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School
  • Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Contact Information

  • Office Phone Number617-632-4918
  • Fax617-632-6845


Dr. Pellman received his MD in 1986 from the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine, and did postgraduate training in pediatrics and pediatric hematology-oncology at DFCI and Children's Hospital, Boston. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1995, he joined DFCI, and is currently the Margaret M. Dyson Professor of Pediatric Oncology, Professor of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School. In 2008, he was appointed as an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Recent Awards:

  • Stohlman Scholar, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society 2005
  • Damon Runyon Scholar Award 1996
  • Kimmel Scholar Award 1998
  • Graduate Student Mentoring Award, Harvard Medical School 1999
  • Scholar Award, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society 2000
  • American Society for Clinical Investigation 2001
  • BASF Bioresearch Award, DFCI 2001
  • HHMI, Investigator 2008
  • Association of American Physicians 2010
  • AAAS Fellow, Medical Sciences 2012
  • Alpha Omega Alpha Research Fellowship 1986
  • Catherine Dobson Prize for Research; University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine 1986
  • St. Jude's Children's Hospital Fellow in the Pediatric Scientist Training Program 1989
  • NIH Clinical Investigator Award 1992
  • Claudia Adams Barr Investigator, DFCI 1994
  • E. Mead Johnson Award, Society of Pediatric Research 2006
  • American Pediatric Society (APS) 2008


Cell Division and Genome Stability

Our laboratory aims to understand normal cell division mechanisms and to discover cell division defects that are unique to cancer cell.  We take a range of approaches including genetics, functional genomics, biochemistry and live cell imaging. There are ongoing projects using yeast, tissue culture cells, and genetically engineered mice.

Our work on cytoskeletal dynamics is focused on the mechanism of chromosome segregation in normal cells and cancer cells. We are particularly interested in how the microtubule and actin cytoskeletons interact and how cell cycle signals remodel these cytoskeletal systems.  For example, we have recently uncovered a mechanism by which actin organization and the adhesive microenvironment of cells influence chromosome segregation. We study how centrosome amplification in cancer cells impacts cellular adhesion, cell migration, and tumor invasion. We have discovered new drug targets that kill cancer cells because of their centrosome amplification.  We have defined cytoskeletal mechanisms that control polarized cell growth, asymmetric cell division, and cytokinesis. We use biochemical and imaging approaches to understand these processes at a mechanistic level.

We are also interested in how aneuploidy (abnormal chomosome number) and polyploidy (increased sets of chromosomes) impact on tumor biology. We have developed new methods to generate human cells with specific cancer-associated trisomies and are studying how these trisomies impact tumorigenesis.  We discovered that failure of cytokinesis, which doubles the number of chromosomes and centrosomes, promotes tumorigenesis, using a mouse breast cancer model. We recently identified a mechanism by which errors in mitosis cause DNA breaks. These findings may explain the recently discovered phenomenon of chromothripsis, where a single chromosome or chromosome arm appears to undergo massive breakage and rearrangement.  


Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
450 Brookline Avenue
Mayer 663
Boston, MA 02215
Get Directions