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Jedd Wolchok, MD, PhD, FASCO
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
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 and clinical studies to further test them alone and in combination to continue improving 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 laboratory and clinical studies aimed at identifying combination approaches to improve response to immune-based therapies in breast cancer.
What they’ve learned so far: Drs. Wolchok and Merghoub have made significant progress in their efforts including:
- Combining immune therapy with radiation therapy
- Targeted and inactivated immune suppressive cells called Tregs and myeloid suppressive cells
- Modulated tumor glucose consumption to improve immune therapies
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 are continuing work on drugs that block immune suppressive cells and a drug that affects tumor metabolism within the tumor microenvironment. They will be evaluating these drugs when combined with current immune therapies. Drs. Wolchok and Merghoub predict that 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.