(New York, NY - November 15, 2023) – The Department of Immunology and Immunotherapy and the Icahn Genomics Institute (IGI) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have been awarded a $5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health to establish a state-of-the-art center dedicated to the discovery and development of cutting-edge targets for cancer therapy.
The new Cancer Target Discovery and Development Center aims to find better ways to fight cancer and advance the field, bringing hope to patients and their families. Leveraging the expertise of the newly created Department of Immunology and Immunotherapy, the Center will harness cutting-edge technologies and interdisciplinary collaborations to accelerate the translation of scientific discoveries into potential clinical therapies.
Key objectives of the Center include:
- Identifying and validating novel cancer targets
- Developing innovative therapeutic approaches, including immunotherapies
- Advancing the understanding of cancer biology through comprehensive genomic analysis
- Collaborating with industry partners to accelerate the translation of discoveries into clinical trials
The project will be led by Principal Investigators Brian Brown, PhD, Director, IGI, and Associate Director, Marc and Jennifer Lipschultz Precision Immunology Institute (PrIISM); Miriam Merad, MD, PhD, Director, PrIISM, and Chair, Department of Immunology and Immunotherapy; and Robert Samstein, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology, all at Icahn Mount Sinai.
“Cancer target discovery research has traditionally concentrated on pinpointing genes that facilitate cancer cell growth and survival. In contrast, our Center will emphasize understanding how cancer cells control the tumor environment to shield themselves from the immune system and develop resistance to immunotherapy medications,” says Dr. Brown. “A distinctive aspect of our work will be identifying the genes that enable cancer to establish an immune-suppressed tumor, hindering the effectiveness of immunotherapy for many patients.”
To uncover how these genes actively influence the microenvironment within real tumors and to pinpoint the specific cellular process changes that key genes use to control tumor growth, metastasis, and immune evasion, the team will evaluate candidate genes in preclinical models in different aggressive cancers, including ovarian and pancreatic cancer.
This analysis will be performed using a pioneering spatial functional genomics platform called Perturb-Map, developed at Icahn Mount Sinai by the Brown lab. The tool enables scientists to knock out dozens of genes simultaneously and study their function at a high resolution. It allows them to see how cancer genes affect not only cancer cells but also the immune system within tumors. This helps them design better treatments, find markers for patient response, and improve therapy combinations.
"This grant represents a notable achievement in our ongoing mission to combat cancer through immunotherapy and targeted therapies. Our Center will empower us to explore new avenues for treating cancer, with the ultimate goal of enhancing patient outcomes and advancing our understanding of this complex disease," says Dr. Merad. "In the long run, our understanding of cancer gene function will pave the way for highly personalized treatments, novel drug development, and innovative immunotherapy strategies targeting these genes and the key processes they influence."
Co-investigators include Luc G.T. Morris, MD, MSc, FACS, Associate Director, Immunogenomics and Precision Oncology Platform, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Also from Icahn Mount Sinai are Alex Tsankov, PhD, Assistant Professor of Genetics and Genomic Sciences; Diego Chowell, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncological Sciences; and Thomas J. Fuchs, Dr.sc., Dean for Artificial Intelligence and Human Health.
The Center will be part of the NCI’s Cancer Target Discovery and Development (CTD2) Network, a functional genomics initiative that bridges the gap between genomics and the development of effective therapeutics. The Network aims to understand tumor development, heterogeneity, drug resistance, and metastasis to develop optimal chemotherapy combinations with immunotherapy. Other CTD2 centers are at Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, the University of California San Francisco, and other sites.
The title of the NCI grant is “Spatial functional genomics to identify regulators of the tumor microenvironment and cancer immunity (grant number 1U01CA282114-01).
The Mount Sinai Department of Immunology and Immunotherapy is a leading research and clinical entity within the Mount Sinai Health System, dedicated to advancing the field of immunology and immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer and other diseases. With a focus on innovation, collaboration, and patient care, the department is at the forefront of cutting-edge research and therapeutic development.
About the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is internationally renowned for its outstanding research, educational, and clinical care programs. It is the sole academic partner for the eight- member hospitals* of the Mount Sinai Health System, one of the largest academic health systems in the United States, providing care to a large and diverse patient population.
Ranked 14th nationwide in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding and among the 99th percentile in research dollars per investigator according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, Icahn Mount Sinai has a talented, productive, and successful faculty. More than 3,000 full-time scientists, educators, and clinicians work within and across 44 academic departments and 36 multidisciplinary institutes, a structure that facilitates tremendous collaboration and synergy. Our emphasis on translational research and therapeutics is evident in such diverse areas as genomics/big data, virology, neuroscience, cardiology, geriatrics, as well as gastrointestinal and liver diseases.
Icahn Mount Sinai offers highly competitive MD, PhD, and Master’s degree programs, with current enrollment of approximately 1,300 students. It has the largest graduate medical education program in the country, with more than 2,000 clinical residents and fellows training throughout the Health System. In addition, more than 550 postdoctoral research fellows are in training within the Health System.
A culture of innovation and discovery permeates every Icahn Mount Sinai program. Mount Sinai’s technology transfer office, one of the largest in the country, partners with faculty and trainees to pursue optimal commercialization of intellectual property to ensure that Mount Sinai discoveries and innovations translate into healthcare products and services that benefit the public.
Icahn Mount Sinai’s commitment to breakthrough science and clinical care is enhanced by academic affiliations that supplement and complement the School’s programs.
Through the Mount Sinai Innovation Partners (MSIP), the Health System facilitates the real-world application and commercialization of medical breakthroughs made at Mount Sinai. Additionally, MSIP develops research partnerships with industry leaders such as Merck & Co., AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, and others.
The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is located in New York City on the border between the Upper East Side and East Harlem, and classroom teaching takes place on a campus facing Central Park. Icahn Mount Sinai’s location offers many opportunities to interact with and care for diverse communities. Learning extends well beyond the borders of our physical campus, to the eight hospitals of the Mount Sinai Health System, our academic affiliates, and globally.
* Mount Sinai Health System member hospitals: The Mount Sinai Hospital; Mount Sinai Beth Israel; Mount Sinai Brooklyn; Mount Sinai Morningside; Mount Sinai Queens; Mount Sinai South Nassau; Mount Sinai West; and New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai.