Dr. Watnick received his PhD in biochemistry and biophysics from Columbia University in 1999, and was a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Robert Weinberg, Whitehead Institute, Cambridge, MA, until 2003.
Dr. Watnick is currently assistant professor at the Department of Surgery, Harvard Medical School and research associate in the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Watnick’s expertise is in tumor stromal interactions, regulators of metastasis and gene regulation in epithelial and mesenchymal cells. His research group studies the regulation of angiogenesis, proliferation and motility in both epithelial cells and fibroblasts. The team has identified a novel suppressor of metastasis, prosaposin, which acts both locally and distally by stimulating the expression and activity of p53, which then stimulates the expression of Tsp-1. Significantly, prosaposin also inhibits both primary tumor growth and metastasis when administered in a systemic fashion, thus making it a potential therapeutic agent to stem the metastatic dissemination of human tumors. Dr. Watnick’s group has also developed a therapeutic peptide derived from prosaposin.
Dr. Watnick has a longstanding collaboration with Professor Akslen on several projects, which among other has made important findings related to the role of Notch1 in breast cancer initiation and progression. Their collaboration on the tumor microenvironment has led to important observations related to CD36, CD47 and prosaposin expression in pancreatic cancer and their correlations to outcome and patient survival. Dr. Watnick will continue to work closely with the Akslen group. Also, the Watnick lab has a collaboration with the laboratory of another affiliate of CCBIO, Dr. Rolf Brekken at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center. The Watnick and Brekken labs are investigating the role of prosaposin in reshaping the immune landscape within the tumor microenvironment.