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Jenny C. Chang, MD
Director, Methodist Cancer Center
Professor, Weill Cornell Medical College
The Methodist Hospital Research Institute
- Seeking new treatments of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).
- Laboratory studies are ongoing to test novel therapies in combination with immunotherapy in models of TNBC.
- Strategies to enhance the natural immune environment could dramatically improve response to immunotherapies in TNBC.
Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive disease and patients face few treatment options other than chemotherapy. New immunotherapy drugs have shown some effectiveness in patients with TNBC, but the response rate remains low. Dr. Chang is conducting studies to improve response to immunotherapy by enhancing the natural immune response.
Full Research Summary
Patients with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) have poor outcomes due to high rates of recurrence, metastatic spread, and lack of approved targeted therapies. Therefore, new targeted therapeutic approaches are urgently needed.
Recently approved, immune-based therapies called checkpoint inhibitors have improved outcomes in several challenging cancers including advanced lung cancer, melanoma, and some TNBC. However, most TNBC tumors do not respond to this therapy. Hence, combination approaches that enhance anti-tumor immunity will be important for effective immunotherapy in breast cancer.
In previous work, Dr. Chang and colleagues identified a molecule called nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) as a driver in promoting tumor growth and metastasis. She is testing anti-iNOS therapy plus an immune-enhancing cytokine called IL-12 in combination with immunotherapy. Their studies utilize state-of-the-art laboratory models bearing a human immune system and harboring patient-derived tumors (PDXs).
These studies have shown that by modifying the tumor microenvironment, it is possible to dramatically improve the response to immune-based novel therapies. Over the next year, they will expand on these studies, first by utilizing patient samples from an ongoing clinical trial to identify biomarkers to predict resistance to immunotherapy and second, to further improve delivery of the IL-12 to improve tumor response to immunotherapy.
Results from these studies could significantly improve the therapeutic options for patients with TNBC and demonstrate the efficiency of their PDX model system to accelerate preclinical studies into clinical applications.
Dr. Chang obtained medical degree from Cambridge University, England and completed fellowship in medical oncology at the Royal Marsden Hospital/Institute for Cancer Research. She was awarded research doctorate from the University of London. Breast cancer has been the focus of her research. She plans to improve the outcome of breast cancer patients by translating scientific discoveries directly into clinical practice and therapeutics. To this end, her most recent work has centered on identifying the mechanisms by which breast cancer stem cells survive chemotherapy, radiation, and hormonal therapy, leading to recurrences, relapses, and metastasis. Her recent work has focused on the intrinsic therapy resistance of cancer stem cells, resulting in several publications and international presentations. In addition, she holds several federal grants evaluating novel biologic agents and patents on new technological advances, especially in the area of high throughput molecular profiling.