Albert Einstein Cancer Center (AECC), Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Montefiore Health System have announced that cancer biologist Julio Aguirre-Ghiso, PhD, has been named founding Director of the Cancer Dormancy and Tumor Microenvironment Institute (CDTMI), Director of the Gruss-Lipper Biophotonics Center, and Co-Leader of the AECC Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program. He will also be an Endowed Professor of Cell Biology at Einstein. He will assume his new roles on October 1, 2021.
Dr. Aguirre-Ghisois currently an Endowed Mount Sinai Professor of Cancer Biology in the Departments of Medicine, Otolaryngology, and Oncological Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He co-leads the Cancer Mechanisms Program at The Tisch Cancer Institute and directs head and neck cancer basic research in the Department of Otolaryngology. He is a member of Mount Sinai’s Precision Immunology Institute and the Black Family Stem Cell Institute. He is also President of the Metastasis Research Society and has served at several leadership levels at the American Association for Cancer Research.
The new institute will build upon the current strengths in tumor microenvironment research at Einstein, while expanding its purview to include cancer dormancy. The CDTMI will also focus on developing novel technologies to better detect dormant cancer and prevent and control recurrent disease. The goal of the institute is to bring together the strengths of new recruits and existing investigators to advance the field and develop novel diagnostic tools and therapies.
Revealing Novel Cancer Processes
Dr. Aguirre-Ghiso and colleagues helped lead a major shift in cancer biology by showing that cancer is not perpetually proliferating, as had been thought. They discovered that crosstalk between cancer cells and the tumor microenvironment regulates the cells’ ability to switch between dormancy and proliferation. His research has also explored how adaptive pathways within cancer cells enable the cells to survive while in a state of dormancy.
Those insights led Dr. Aguirre-Ghiso to develop novel strategies for preventing cancer recurrence by targeting residual but undetectable cancer cells that have survived initial chemotherapy. To pursue those strategies, Dr. Aguirre-Ghiso has developed clinical trials supported by funding agencies. His work is revealing ways to maintain residual cancer cell dormancy, kill dormant cancer cells, and use biomarkers to determine whether disseminated cancer cells are in a dormant or active state.