Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) and Hackensack Meridian Health recently announced they have formed an Immunology Research Collaboration. Through this joint initiative, researchers can apply for funding to support innovative investigations exploring the power of the immune system and ways it may be harnessed to fight cancer.
Three Inaugural Projects
The three researchers with projects selected in 2020 for funding support over 1 to 2 years follow:
Johannes Zakrzewski, MD
Johannes Zakrzewski, MD, Associate Member of the Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation, is leading a project called “Targeting Auto and Neoantigens with in Vivo–Generated Antigen-Specific T Cells.” His lab will investigate novel strategies for cancer immunotherapy and immunosurveillance by employing the capacity of the thymus gland in mice to produce cancer-targeted T cells. In addition, these researchers will harness advances in gene therapy and chimeric antigen receptor technology to help lay the groundwork for future cancer immunotherapy options. This immunotherapy approach could be especially suitable for children and young adults with cancer.
Boglarka Gyurkocza, MD
Boglarka Gyurkocza, MD, a medical oncologist at MSK, is leading a project called “Targeting the Gut Microbiome to Improve Outcomes After Allogeneic Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.” This project will explore in an ongoing clinical trial whether certain antibiotics preserve specific anaerobic intestinal microbiota in patients who have received stem cell transplants and how preserving these gut flora affects the risk of patients developing graft-vs-host disease. The trial is currently open at MSK and will also open at the Hackensack Meridian John Theurer Cancer Center. Dr. Gyurkocza and colleagues will also examine how the loss of anaerobic gut flora may impact the risk of relapse and disease progression in multiple myeloma mouse models.
Rena Feinman, PhD
Rena Feinman, PhD, Associate Member of the Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation, is leading a project called “Impact of the Gut Microbiome on Immunotherapeutic Response in Multiple Myeloma.” She and the project team will investigate whether distinct gut microbiota can predict the risk for relapse in patients with high-risk multiple myeloma who received the standard of care, including a stem cell transplant from a donor. By analyzing the gut microbiota in patients’ stool before and after transplant, the researchers will also be able to personalize which antibiotics a patient receives. Dr. Feinman will also explore the relationship between the gut microbiome and multiple myeloma progression in experimental models.
“Immunotherapy has become an essential pillar of cancer treatment, but much remains to be discovered about the immune system and new ways to take advantage of its power to treat cancer effectively,” said Paul Sabbatini, MD, Deputy Physician-in-Chief for Clinical Research at MSK.
Paul Sabbatini, MD
“The Immunology Research Collaboration between Memorial Sloan Kettering and Hackensack Meridian Health gives researchers an opportunity to delve deeply into unexplored facets of the immune system, both in the lab and clinic, and speed discoveries that will ultimately contribute to reducing the burden of cancer on our patients, their families, and the world. We are enthusiastic about the potential of these three research projects and look forward to their results.”