Maureen E. Murphy, Ph.D.

Maureen E. Murphy, Ph.D.

  • Professor and Program Leader, Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program
  • Associate Vice President for Faculty Affairs
  • Associate Director for Education and Career Development, Wistar Cancer Center
  • 215-495-6870, Office

The Murphy laboratory focuses two cancer-critical proteins involved in tumor cell survival and death: HSP70 and p53.

p53 is the most frequently mutated gene in human cancer and is widely regarded as the most important anti-cancer defense protein in the body.  p53 is mutated and inactivated in tumors, rendering them more aggressive, more metastatic, and more resistant to chemo- and radiation therapy.  Murphy’s work on p53 focuses on genetic variants of the p53 gene that exist in different populations.  In particular, her group discovered that a genetic variant in the p53 tumor suppressor gene that is most common in African Americans affects the ability of this protein to suppress tumor development and respond to therapy. Her studies have relevance for understanding ethnic disparities in cancer risk and survival.  Her current efforts are focused on identifying chemotherapeutic protocols that work best in tumor cells that contain the African-centric p53 variant, in order to improve therapy in these individuals.

The cancer-critical survival protein HSP70 is highly expressed in the majority of human tumors but is largely undetectable in normal cells.  As such, HSP70 is an ideal cancer target.  Murphy uses a series of novel HSP70 inhibitors created in her laboratory for the therapy of human tumors, with focus on melanoma.  She also seeks to understand why tumors that express high levels of HSP70 are more aggressive, and are associated with poorer prognosis.

Murphy obtained a bachelors of science degree in biochemistry at Rutgers University, followed by a doctorate in molecular biology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. In 1994, she began postdoctoral research at Princeton University in the laboratory of Arnold J. Levine, Ph.D., the co-discoverer of p53 and a pioneer in the field of tumor suppressor genes and cancer biology.

In 1998, Murphy became an Assistant Professor at Fox Chase Cancer Center, where she was promoted to Associate Professor in 2003, and Full Professor in 2011. She joined the Wistar Institute in 2011 and in 2012 became Program Leader of the Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis program.  Murphy is an adjunct professor at Drexel University College of Medicine and The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Since 1999, she has received continuous research support from the National Cancer Institute for her studies.  For her studies on p53 and HSP70, in 2016 Murphy was awarded the Gateway Foundation award for cancer leadership.

Selected Publications

1. Basu S, Barnoud T, Kung CP, Reiss M, Murphy ME. The African-specific S47 polymorphism of p53 alters chemosensitivity. Cell Cycle. 2016; 15:2557-2560. PMC5053554.

2. Budina-Kolomets A, Webster MR, Leu JI, Jennis M, Krepler C, Guerrini A, Kossenkov AV, Xu W, Karakousis G, Schuchter L, Amaravadi RK, Wu H, Yin X, Liu Q, Lu Y, Mills GB, Xu X, George DL, Weeraratna AT, Murphy ME. HSP70 Inhibition Limits FAK-Dependent Invasion and Enhances the Response to Melanoma Treatment with BRAF Inhibitors. Cancer Res. 2016; 76:2720-2730. PMC4939897.

3. Jennis M, Kung CP, Basu S, Budina-Kolomets A, Leu JI, Khaku S, Scott JP, Cai KQ, Campbell MR, Porter DK, Wang X, Bell DA, Li X, Garlick DS, Liu Q, Hollstein M, George DL, Murphy ME. An African-specific polymorphism in the TP53 gene impairs p53 tumor suppressor function in a mouse model. Genes Dev. 2016; 30:918-930. PMC4840298.

4. Kung CP, Leu JI, Basu S, Khaku S, Anokye-Danso F, Liu Q, George DL, Ahima RS, Murphy ME. The P72R Polymorphism of p53 Predisposes to Obesity and Metabolic Dysfunction. Cell Rep. 2016; 14:2413-2425. PMC4926645.

5. Kung CP, Murphy ME. The role of the p53 tumor suppressor in metabolism and diabetes. J Endocrinol. 2016; Epub ahead of print PMID: 27613337. NIHMSID 816292.

6. Basu S, Murphy ME. p53 family members regulate cancer stem cells. Cell Cycle. 2016; 15:1403-1404.. PMC4934078.

7. Murphy ME. Ironing out how p53 regulates ferroptosis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016; 113:12350-12352. PMC5098647.

8. Basu S, Murphy ME. Genetic Modifiers of the p53 Pathway. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2016; 6:a026302. PMID: 27037420. PMC Journal – In Process.