Biomedical Research at John Theurer Cancer Center

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Exploring the Roots of Cancer to Improve Outcomes

Laboratory scientists at Hackensack University Medical Center are collaborating with clinicians at John Theurer Cancer Center and with investigators at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and other institutions to explore hematopoietic stem cell biology and optimize transplantation, study genetic and epigenetic variants influencing cancer risk, and delineate biomarkers that predict cancer progression, among other topics. The findings of their investigations hold promise for gleaning new insights into the roots of cancer development and determinants of outcomes in people being treated for cancer.

Korngold Lab

Robert Korngold, PhD, has over four decades of experience in the field of immunology. His focus has been on T-cell immunobiology related to allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT)—including graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), graft-versus-tumor (GVT) responses, immune reconstitution, and immuno-therapeutic approaches.

Tycko Lab

Benjamin Tycko, MD, PhD, has focused on understanding genetics and epigenetics in human development and disease. From pioneering studies of genomic imprinting and the function of imprinted genes, his lab’s work has evolved into genome-wide and gene-specific profiling of the patterns of CpG methylation in DNA samples from normal and diseased human tissues and mouse models. The goal of these molecular studies is disease gene discovery and biological pathway analysis in autoimmune diseases, neuropsychiatric disorders, Down syndrome and cancers.

Loudig Lab

Olivier Loudig, PhD and his lab team have developed research programs for biomarker discovery in breast cancer, and also share research projects on biomarker discovery in lung, prostate, and pancreatic cancers. In 2017, the team secured a five-year, $6.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to identify biomarkers to predict which women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)  will develop invasive breast cancer. This research could help personalize treatment and improve outcomes for tens of thousands of women each year.. In 2017, the team secured a five-year, $6.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to identify biomarkers to predict which women with DCIS will develop invasive breast cancer. This research could help personalize treatment and improve outcomes for tens of thousands of women each year.

Butler Lab

Jason Butler, PhD, and his fellow investigators are seeking to unravel the mechanisms by which supportive niche cells promote organ regeneration, in the hope of translating these therapeutic modalities to repair injured organs. Their commitment to studying the hematopoietic system is based on the discoveries demonstrating that bone marrow endothelial cells (BM ECs) serve as instructive niche cells that are essential for the reconstitution of the hematopoietic system following radiation injury. The concept that ECs provide an instructive fertile niche for the maintenance of functional hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) opens new avenues for many aspects in stem cell biology and can be applied to multiple biosystems.

Zilberberg Lab

Jenny Zilberberg, PhD, focuses on the biology of multiple myeloma (MM). Preclinical testing in MM has been hampered by the lack of an available system that enables the ex vivo maintenance of primary patient-derived MM cells. To address this issue, she has been fruitfully collaborating with researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology since 2010. Together, they have undertaken the challenge of developing technologies to reproduce the bone/bone marrow microenvironment of MM as well as other malignances that reside in, or metastasize to, the bone marrow niche

Ryu Lab

Byungwoo Ryu, PhD, is studying reprogramming of the epigenome of cancer cells by chemically and/or genetically targeting epigenetic modifiers to improve clinical outcomes using existing cancer therapies. His efforts focus on understanding the underlying mechanisms of epigenetic processes in cancer. The long-term goal is to discover new epigenetic vulnerability pathways that can be targeted to treat cancer.

Zakrzewski Lab

Johannes Zakrzewski, MD, focuses on the development of innovative therapies for the treatment of myeloma, lymphoma, and other cancers, as well as T-cell deficiency. The laboratory provides a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration, integrating oncology, immunology, stem cell biology, bioengineering, and drug development. They are investigating novel strategies for cancer immunotherapy and immunosurveillance by exploiting the endogenous capacity of the thymus to generate genetically modified T cells and harnessing advances in gene therapy and chimeric antigen receptor technology; utilizing immunobioengineering methodologies to achieve thymus-independent T-cell generation; and pursuing a drug development program aimed at improving the understanding of NF-κB and oxidative stress as therapeutic targets in multiple myeloma and other cancers.

Feinman Lab

Rena Feinman, PhD, seeks innovative and novel strategies to improve the response to anticancer therapies. The discovery that compositional differences of the gut microbiome contribute to the heterogeneity of the immune response to chemotherapies or immunotherapies prompted her team to investigate the influence of the gut microbiome on antitumor immunosurveillance in patients with multiple myeloma and triple-negative breast cancer. These studies could identify novel microbiota-associated immunomodulatory biomarkers that predict response to combination therapy, disease-free survival, and overall survival. A second area of interest in the lab is understanding the mechanisms responsible for early, conditioning-related intestinal injuries that contribute to the initiation of gut graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) and determining how subsequent gut-specific epithelial pathology disrupts intestinal homeostasis.

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