Pierre-Yves Desprez, Ph.D., Senior Scientist

California Pacific CURRENTS: The online journal of CPMC Research Institute

Identifying transcriptional regulators that control cancer progression and metastasis
  • Aggressive cancer cells and inactivation of Id-1 gene expression

    The left panel shows aggressive cancer cells that have lost the ability to communicate and that are able to migrate and invade their microenvironment. The right panel shows the same cancer cells after inactivation of Id-1 gene expression.  These cells acquired a more normal rounded shape, reestablished contact and started to lose the markers specific for aggressive cancer cells (in green, where nuclei are visualized in blue).

    These results are part of a manuscript published by the laboratories of Drs. Liliana Soroceanu, Sean McAllister and Pierre-Yves Desprez, in Cancer Research 2013 and showing the effects of targeting Id-1 (either by genetic knockdown or by using a cannabinoid compound) on the behavior of aggressive cancer cells.

    Source: Soroceanu L, Murase R, Limbad C, Singer E, Allison J, Adrados I, Kawamura R, Pakdel A, Fukuyo Y, Nguyen D, Khan S, Arauz R, Yount GL, Moore DH, Desprez PY, McAllister SD. Id-1 is a key transcriptional regulator of glioblastoma aggressiveness and a novel therapeutic target. Cancer Res. 2013 Mar 1;73(5):1559-69. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-1943. Epub 2012 Dec 13. (Adapted from Figure 3)



Research Overview

  • The Desprez laboratory is focused on helix-loop-helix transcriptional regulators, and their role in controlling normal and cancerous epithelial cell phenotypes. Id proteins—negative regulators of basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors—have been identified as a critical regulator of proliferation and migration/invasion.
  • Dr. Desprez and his colleagues found that Id genes and proteins not only correlate with but also determine the level of aggressiveness of human breast and prostate cancer cells, and that Id-1 regulates multiple tumor-promoting pathways in brain cancer (glioblastoma).
  • In collaboration with CPMCRI scientist Dr. Sean McAllister, recent investigations by Dr. Desprez have determined that cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid with a low toxicity profile, inhibits human cancer cell proliferation and invasion through differential modulation of specific pathways, and down-regulates Id-1 gene expression. CBD also up-regulates the pro-differentiation factor Id-2 in breast cancer cells.
  • Dr. Desprez leads DNA and RNA sequencing and molecular profiling efforts, and is the shared lead on breast cancer, for CPMCRI's Cancer Avatar Project.


Before joining CPMCRI, Dr. Desprez completed his Ph.D. at the University of Lyon in France, and worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratories of Drs. Judith Campisi and Mina Bissell at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on extracellular matrix, mammary gland development, breast cancer and cellular senescence.


Publication Search


de Semir D, Bezrookove V, Nosrati M, Dar AA, Wu C, Shen J, Rieken C, Venkatasubramanian M, Miller JR 3rd, Desprez PY, McAllister S, Soroceanu L, Debs RJ, Salomonis N, Schadendorf D, Cleaver JE, Kashani-Sabet M, PHIP as a therapeutic target for driver-negative subtypes of melanoma, breast, and lung cancer. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Wiley CD, Schaum N, Alimirah F, Lopez-Dominguez JA, Orjalo AV, Scott G, Desprez PY, Benz C, Davalos AR, Campisi J, Small-molecule MDM2 antagonists attenuate the senescence-associated secretory phenotype. Sci Rep

Lecot P, Alimirah F, Desprez PY, Campisi J, Wiley C, Context-dependent effects of cellular senescence in cancer development. Br J Cancer

Murase R, Sumida T, Kawamura R, Onishi-Ishikawa A, Hamakawa H, McAllister SD, Desprez PY, Suppression of invasion and metastasis in aggressive salivary cancer cells through targeted inhibition of ID1 gene expression. Cancer Lett

Pierre-Yves Desprez, Ph.D., Senior Scientist
Primary Research Interests
  • The role of Id-1 in controlling cancer progression and metastatis
  • Understanding the mechanisms involved in cannabinoid control of cancer progression
  • Discovery and early development of non-psychotropic cannabinoid anti-tumor agents