Matthew D. Hellmann, MD

The recent discovery that the immune system can be used to treat cancers has revolutionized treatment and given new hope for long-term response and survival to patients with lung cancer. Research so far has demonstrated that there are some predictors of response to immunotherapy, such as tumor mutation burden which is increased in patients most likely to benefit from immunotherapy. Dr.

Christopher A. Klebanoff, MD

A form of cancer immunotherapy termed adoptive T cell transfer (ACT) can induce long-lasting remissions in patients with advanced blood cancers. In this approach, T white blood cells specific for proteins found on the surface of cancer cells (antigens) are activated and expanded outside the immunosuppressive environment of a cancer patient's body before re-infusion as a therapy. Thus far, this promising form of cancer immunotherapy has failed to work in most patients with cancers arising from solid organs, the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in adults.

Andrew M. Intlekofer, MD, PhD

New drugs that target metabolic pathways have shown promise for the treatment of cancer, but the benefits of these drugs have been restricted to rare patients whose cancers have mutations in specific metabolic enzymes. Dr. Intlekofer identified a metabolic pathway whereby subpopulations of genetically identical cancer cells produce a metabolite called L-2-hydroxyglutarate (L-2HG) that induces stem cell-like properties associated with resistance to anti-cancer therapies.

Mortiz F. Kircher, MD, PhD

Dr. Kircher's goal is to develop a new nanoparticle-based technology that will allow the detection and treatment of cancer based on in vivo tumor marker expression profiling. This would enable a single cancer cell to be both imaged and killed in a single process. To date this has not been achieved, in part due to inadequate sensitivity and inability to accurately visualize the expression of multiple tumor markers simultaneously.

Piro Lito, MD, PhD

Therapies that directly target cancer-promoting oncoproteins have revolutionized the treatment of cancer. Cancers, however, are primed to adapt and evolve in the presence of treatment, resulting in an ability to resume growth despite the presence of therapy. Utilizing cutting-edge new techniques that allow the determination of genetic alterations in single cancer cells, Piro aims to understand the principles that govern the evolution of resistance during therapy and identify novel therapeutic interventions that halt this process.

Adrienne A. Boire, MD, PhD

Leptomeningeal metastasis, or spread of cancer cells into the spinal fluid, is a devastating complication of cancer resulting in rapid neurologic disability and death. With little mechanistic information to guide treatment decisions, efforts at treatment are too often futile. To address this critical knowledge gap, Adrienne will employ a translational approach to analyze patient samples utilizing multiple, complementary, orthogonal molecular strategies as tools for discovery.

Vinod P. Balachandran, MD

Despite our best current treatments, 95% of patients with pancreatic cancer, including those at the earliest stages, die within 5 years of diagnosis. By 2020, pancreatic cancer will become the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S., and new therapies are urgently needed. T cells are highly specialized cells of the immune system designed to protect the human body from infections and cancer. Very few T cells recognize pancreatic cancer; however, recent work showed that these T cells play a very important role in controlling the spread of pancreatic cancer.

Robert L. Bowman, PhD

Dr. Bowman focuses on acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which can be characterized by successive development of genetic mutations. While some mutations are found in nearly every cell of the disease, others are found in sub-populations and are thought to arise at later stages of disease development. It remains unclear if these late mutations are necessary for leukemic progression and are actionable therapeutic targets. He aims to develop models to test the oncogenic dependency of one of the most commonly mutated genes in AML, FLT3.

Melody Smith, MD

Bone marrow transplant (BMT) is a treatment approach where cells from a healthy donor are given to a patient with blood cancer who has not responded to other treatments. Unfortunately, there are risks to this procedure such as graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), which occurs if the cells from the donor attack the "foreign" patient tissue; this can cause serious organ damage and is life-threatening. Melody is investigating an approach to decrease GVHD while also maintaining the benefits of BMT, specifically graft versus tumor (GVT).

Lydia Finley, PhD

Cancer cells frequently rewire intracellular metabolic pathways in order to support rapid proliferation. In addition to serving as building blocks for cell growth, metabolites also serve as critical substrates for enzymes that control gene expression programs. Changes in intracellular metabolites can therefore have a profound effect on cellular functions including survival, growth and differentiation. As the Jack Sorrell Fellow of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, Dr. Finley found that specific intracellular metabolites promote the self-renewal of embryonic stem cells.