Titles and Affiliations
Meyer Director, Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center
Weill Cornell Medicine
The Play for P.I.N.K. Millbrook Award
Areas of Focus
- Tumor Biology
Taha Merghoub, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, New York
Improving response to immunotherapy in breast cancer patients.
Immunotherapy is a treatment strategy that utilizes the body’s immune defenses to fight off disease. Immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) is an innovative cancer treatment that uses a class of drugs known as immune checkpoint inhibitors that are designed to help the immune system recognize, target, and destroy cancerous cells. This treatment strategy has been effective in patients with melanoma, lung, and other cancers, but has not been very effective for most breast cancers. The BCRF-supported research of Drs. Wolchok and Merghoub focuses on both developing new immune-based strategies and improving response to existing immunotherapies in breast cancer.
Progress Thus Far
Previously, Drs. Wolchok and Merghoub found that combining ICB with radiation therapy improves anti-tumor responses. The team has now shown that combining ICB with the chemotherapy cyclophosphamide also enhances anti-tumor responses in several preclinical models. To continue this work, they developed a liquid-based platform to study changes in T cells—a type of immune cell that plays a central role in the immune response—in small amounts of blood. This novel technology enables the team to monitor T cells during treatments, assess the efficacy of combinatorial treatments, and determine optimal intervention times. The team has also developed a system to monitor immune and tumor cells simultaneously to understand what happens during tumor growth and in response to ICB.
Drs. Wolchok and Merghoub will continue optimizing therapeutic strategies to overcome immunotherapy resistance in breast cancer by using their in-house T cell sequencing platform and their dual-imaging reporter system to monitor immune suppressive activity. Additionally, they will expand the scope of targeting tumor metabolic pathways to improve responses to ICB.
Jedd Wolchok, MD PhD is the Meyer Director of the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Wolchok is a clinician-scientist exploring innovative immunotherapeutic strategies in laboratory models, and a principal investigator in numerous pivotal clinical trials. Dr. Wolchok was instrumental in the clinical development leading to the approval of ipilimumab for advanced melanoma. He supervises an NIH R01-funded basic science laboratory which is focused on investigating novel immunotherapeutic agents in pre-clinical laboratory models.
The focus of his translational research laboratory is to investigate innovative means to modulate the immune response to cancer as well as to better understand the mechanistic basis for sensitivity and resistance to currently available immunotherapies. In 2011, Dr. Wolchok established the Immunotherapeutics Clinical Core, a specialized phase 1-2 outpatient unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center that is focused on the conduct of novel immunotherapy trials, with a specific emphasis on pharmacodynamic biomarker identification. This group treats patients with a broad spectrum of malignancies.