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Jedd Wolchok, MD, PhD
Chief, Melanoma & Immunotherapeutics Service
Associate Director, Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy
Attending Physician, Melanoma/Sarcoma Service
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine
New York, New York
Goal: To improve response to immunotherapy in breast cancer patients.
Impact: Drs. Wolchok and Merghoub are pursuing strategies to harness the power of the immune system to treat breast cancer, including combination treatment approaches and vaccine development. Their work could advance the use of immune-based treatments in breast cancer patients.
What’s next: Having identified two classes of drugs that work by preventing immune surveillance of breast tumors, the team will now conduct laboratory studies to further test them alone and in combination with current immune therapies.
Immunotherapy has been less effective in treating breast cancer patients compared to those with other types of cancer, such as melanoma and lung cancer. Drs. Wolchok and Merghoub are conducting several studies aimed at enhancing response to immunotherapy in patients with breast cancer and improve outcomes. Having shown promise in laboratory studies, some of these methods are now being tested in patients.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Developing immunotherapy approaches in breast cancer.
Impact: Immunotherapy refers to a treatment strategy that utilizes the body’s immune defenses to fight off disease. A new class of immunotherapies called checkpoint inhibitors have been effective in patients with melanoma, lung and other cancer, but has not been very effective for most breast cancers. The BCRF research of Drs. Wolchok and Merghoub is focusing on both developing new immune-based strategies and improving response to existing immunotherapies in breast cancer.
Current research: Drs.Wolchok and Merghoub are continuing ongoing studies aimed at identifying combination approaches to improve response to immune-based therapies in breast cancer.
What he’s learned so far: Drs. Wolchok and Merghoub have made significant progress in their efforts including:
- The development of a breast cancer vaccine
- The optimization of combination approaches including immunotherapy plus and radiation therapies and cryoablation (tumor cell freezing)
- The development of multiple targeted strategies to overcome tumor immune suppression
What’s next: In the coming year, they will continue their efforts to optimize treatments that combine local radiation therapy and immune therapy. In addition, they will conduct laboratory studies to evaluate two new drugs that work by different mechanisms to enhance anti-tumor immune response and test these in combination with current immune therapies.
Dr. Wolchok is Chief of the Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service, Attending Physician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). Dr. Wolchok has helped establish MSKCC 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 also leads the MSKCC Immune Monitoring Facility, a world-renowned full-time core dedicated to the pre-clinical and clinical cellular, serological and pathological monitoring of clinical trials of new immunotherapeutic approaches. He is Principal Investigator of numerous ongoing clinical trials at MSKCC in the area of immunotherapy. He supervises an NIH R01-funded basic science laboratory which is focused on investigating novel immunotherapeutic agents in pre-clinical laboratory models. 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.