Titles and Affiliations
Lloyd J. Old/Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Chair in Clinical Investigation
Chief, Immuno-Oncology Service
Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program
Director, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at MSK
Associate Director, Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy
Member, Ludwig Cancer Research
Professor of Medicine, Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
New York, New York
Areas of Focus
- Tumor Biology
Taha Merghoub, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, 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. A class of immunotherapies called checkpoint inhibitors have 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
In tumors, both cancer cells and immune cells compete for glucose. Drs. Wolchok and Merghoub discovered that by reducing the cancer cell glucose consumption they can increase the ability of anti-tumor immune cells to respond to immunotherapy. The team also demonstrated that tumor destruction with local radiotherapy can strengthen anti-tumor immunity when combined with an antibody that blocks a molecule important for protecting cells from death.
Drs. Wolchok and Merghoub are working on three classes of potential drugs: a drug that blocks immune-suppressive cells called T regulatory cells, drugs that block suppressive cells in a pathway called AHR, and a drug that affects tumor metabolism within the tumor microenvironment. The team will continue to evaluate these drugs and how they function when combined with current immunotherapies in pre-clinical models. The team hopes that because these drugs inhibit both immune-suppressive cells and modulate glucose metabolism, their findings will inform the design of future clinical trials with these agents.
Dr. Wolchok is Chief of the Immuno-Oncology Service and holds The Lloyd J. Old Chair in Clinical Investigation at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). Dr. Wolchok is a clinician-scientist exploring innovative immunotherapeutic strategies in laboratory models, and a principal investigator in numerous pivotal clinical trials. Dr. Wolchok has helped establish MSK as a leader in the discovery and treatment of cancers with novel immunotherapies. 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 MSKCC 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.