Titles and Affiliations
Deputy Director, Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center
Margaret and Herman Sokol Professor of Oncology Research
Professor of Pharmacology
Weill Cornell Medicine
The Play for P.I.N.K. Millbrook Award
Areas of Focus
- Tumor Biology
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. Merghoub and Wolchok focuses on both developing new immune-based strategies and improving response to existing immunotherapies in breast cancer.
Progress Thus Far
Previously, Drs. Merghoub and Wolchok 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. Merghoub and Wolchok 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.
Taha Merghoub, PhD is the deputy director of the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine. He received his BA degree from University of Algiers, Algeria, and MS and PhD degrees with highest distinction from University of Paris, France. His thesis work focused on the study of genetic polymorphism in fetal hemoglobin genes in patients with sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. His findings provided insight to the correlation of genotypes and phenotypes in sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. After graduation, he pursued his postdoctoral research with Dr. Pier Paolo Pandolfi at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He characterized the transcriptional properties of the Pokemon gene and its role during development. He also played an active role in the generation of laboratory models for acute promyelocytic leukemia and furthered his knowledge and experience in genetics.