Jedd Wolchok, MD, PhD, FASCO
New York, New York
Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center
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.
In tumors, both cancer cells and immune cells compete for glucose. Drs. Wolchok and Merghoub discovered that by reducing cancer cell glucose consumption they can increase the ability of anti-tumor immune cells to respond to immunotherapy. The team then demonstrated that the same result can be accomplished by using pharmacological compounds that affect tumor metabolism, opening the possibility for clinical application. Drs. Wolchok and Merghoub also found that radiotherapy can strengthen anti-tumor immunity when combined with immune checkpoint blockade (ICB), increasing the anti-tumor immune response.
Drs. Wolchok and Merghoub will continue to investigate radiation therapy in combination with ICB. They will also explore combinations that target cells that are suppressive to immune function. In addition, the team will use imaging to understand when immune suppression takes place in order to time the treatment appropriately. Finally, they will test agents that modulate glucose consumption by tumor cells as a strategy to boost immune cell function.
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.
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