Titles and Affiliations

Associate Member, Center for Discovery and Innovation
Associate Professor, Department of Medical Sciences, Hackensack Meridian School
Center for Discovery and Innovation
Hackensack Meridian Health 
Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Oncology
Georgetown University School of Medicine, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
Hackensack University School of Medicine
Hackensack, New Jersey

Research area

Identifying innovative approaches to improve response to therapies for triple-negative breast cancer.


Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an extremely aggressive and heterogeneous disease. It accounts for 15-20 percent of all diagnosed breast cancers, and affects young women, particularly African Americans and women with inherited mutations in the BRCA gene. Although chemotherapy is an effective therapy against TNBC, only 35-40 percent of TNBC patients respond to chemotherapy before surgery and the majority of these patients progress to metastatic disease within three years after diagnosis. The discovery that the composition of the gut and tumor microbiome, which consist of tens of trillions bacteria, can influence whether or not a patient responds to chemotherapy prompted Drs. Feinman and Montgomery to ask if certain types of gut and tumor bacteria increase the efficacy of neoadjuvant chemotherapy. They aim to identify novel microbiota-associated biomarkers that predict poor outcome—this could lead to the development of personalized microbial-based therapies that harness the immune system of TNBC patients to effectively defeat this disease. 

Progress Thus Far

Drs. Feinman and Montgomery have found the presence of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria in TNBC tumor biopsies prior to and after neoadjuvant chemotherapy. 

What's next

The team will continue accruing patients to their study and will reach the targeted enrollment total in the next year. Analyses of gut and tumor bacteria to establish correlations with patient immune response and outcome are ongoing.


Dr. Rena Feinman is an Associate Scientist in the Department of Research and Member of the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. She received her PhD in the Department of Microbiology at the New York University School of Medicine and pursued her postdoctoral fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. 

While on faculty at the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy in Little Rock, Arkansas, Dr. Feinman’s laboratory identified NFkappaB, a master regulator of immune and inflammatory responses, as a therapeutic target and predictive factor in clinical response to dexamethasone and immunomodulatory-based therapies in multiple myeloma patients.

Until 2013, Dr. Feinman was an Assistant and Associate Professor of Surgery at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School. Her research investigated how hypoxia-inducible factors (HIF) and toll-like receptor signaling triggered intestinal inflammation during shock and critical illness led to the development of systemic inflammatory response syndrome and multiple organ failure.

Dr Feinman’s current research examines the influence of the gut microbiome in modulating anti-tumor immune responses in high-risk multiple myeloma. In collaboration with Dr. Leslie Montgomery, Dr. Feinman is working to identify novel gut flora-associated biomarkers that predict response to chemotherapy, disease-free survival, and overall survival in newly diagnosed TNBC patients.

BCRF Investigator Since


Areas of Focus