Dr Taha MerGhoub, PhD

Scientific Advisor

Co-directs the Ludwig Collaborative Laboratory and the Swim Across America Laboratory at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK). A member researcher of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at MSK. I also lead the biorepository for the Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service at MSK.
My research projects focus on investigating the means for developing immune-based therapies to treat cancer. In addition, some of my work aims to study the pathogenesis and treatment of melanoma and is directed in part at developing tools to study melanoma and immune responses in multiple cancers. My projects are heavily collaborative in nature across different disciplines at MSK.

My projects can be divided into the following categories:
Overcoming resistance to checkpoint blockade therapy by modulating the immune system. This work is focused on combining checkpoint blockade with other immune modulatory molecules that inhibit components of the immune suppressive tumor microenvironment (such as IDO and TGFb) or activate effector immune cells that can directly recognize and kill tumor cells (such as OX40 and GITR).

Using the immune modulatory properties of modalities that target and kill tumor cells directly. We have been exploring targeted oncogenic pathway inhibitors such as MEK inhibitors, conventional therapies such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, adoptive T cell therapy, and oncolytic viruses such as NDV and MVA. We have also been combining these modalities with checkpoint blockade and costimulation.

Defining biomarkers and genetic determinants of response to immune therapy. We recently started exploring the genetic determinants of response to immune therapy and have demonstrated the importance of tumor burden in tumor immunity. We are now exploring the relationship between the genetic determinants of antitumor immune response and other factors such as expression of tumor-associated antigens, T cell repertoire diversity, and the immune tumor landscape. We are also exploring means to develop vaccine therapies based on neoantigens defined by these approaches.

Developing a tissue repository for the immunotherapy and melanoma groups. We have developed a system for the routine collection, processing, and analysis of samples that have been collected as part of multiple clinical trials. We have tested and optimized standard operating procedures for multiple integrated techniques that will enable us to characterize surgical resections or biopsies. These samples can then be uniquely interrogated for functionality and biomarkers of response to therapy. We have also established means to develop cell lines and PDX models using these samples. We have worked with multiple investigators across several services at MSK that are interested in immunotherapy and melanoma biology.

Scientific Advisory Board

Dr. Pamela Carroll, PhD

Scientific Advisor

Pharmaceutical Research and Development Executive who applies expertise in cancer biology and immune-oncology to the development of new classes of cancer medicines.  She has led small molecule and biologics discovery programs and, currently, therapeutic vaccines.  She is Senior Vice President of immuno-oncology at Genocea Biosciences.  Her other positions have included Vice President of oncology discovery at Roche, Vice President of Janssen oncology innovation and founding head of research at the Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School.  Pam developed her drug discovery experience at Bristol Myers Squibb in applied genomics and Merck in oncology. Pam earned her B.A. in biology at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, a doctorate in cellular biology at Stony Brook University, and a post-doctorate in genetics at Stanford University. 

PD Dr. med Ulf Petrausch

Scientific Advisor

More than 13 years of expertise in Immunology, Experimental Clinical Immunotherapy and Oncology. Head of Onco-immunology service OnkoZentrum Zurich Hirslanden, President of Swiss Tumor Immunology Institute. Previous roles included Head of the Clinical Onco-immunology program , Head of the laboratory for Experimental Onco-immunology at the University of Zurich.   

Dr. Michael Curran

Scientific Advisor

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Scientific Director of the Oncology Research for Biologics and Immunotherapy Translation (ORBIT) platform, which coordinates development and production of clinical immunotherapeutic antibodies based on novel targets and preclinical reagents originating at MD Anderson. He also has established an independent lab at MD Anderson, where his group studies the origins of the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment and how it can be disrupted to facilitate immune-mediated tumor rejection. At Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. Curran published several influential papers describing how T-cell co-stimulatory pathways could be modulated in tandem to mediate immunologic rejection of melanomas in mice. He detailed how combination blockade of the T-cell co-inhibitory receptors CTLA-4 and PD-1 promoted the rejection of a majority of murine melanomas an unprecedented result that prompted the Food and Drug Administration to make this the first approved immunotherapy antibody combination. In addition, his subsequent immunologic studies of 4-1BB agonist antibodies earned him the Society for the Immunotherapy of Cancer’s prestigious Presidential Award.