• Press Release

Mount Sinai Receives $1.7 million to Study Natural Killer Cell Dysfunction in Bladder Cancer

The Tisch Cancer Institute Deepens Bladder Cancer Care With New Center of Excellence

  • New York, NY
  • (September 12, 2019)

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has been awarded nearly $1.7 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Defense to study how bladder cancer affects certain types of white blood cells called “natural killer” cells, or NK cells, which control and limit tumor growth. A clinical and research team of investigators with expertise in bladder cancer and immunotherapy will also design interventions to reverse NK cell dysfunction. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer among veterans. Smoking and exposure to industrial chemicals are the leading causes.

The immune system is essential for rapid and efficient tumor surveillance. NK cells are mobilized during early tumor development in order to limit tumor growth, direct the killing of tumor cells, and prevent further growth. However, studies conducted at The Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have shown that NK cells found in human bladder cancers are severely compromised. Researchers suspect that cancer cells interfere with the ability of these cells to contain bladder tumor growth.

“With a better understanding of how bladder tumors prevent the functionality of NK cells, we can design therapies to interfere with this processes by using blood cells and tumor tissue from patients with bladder cancer,” said principal investigator Nina Bhardwaj, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine (Hematology and Medical Oncology) and Director of Immunotherapy at The Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Bhardwaj anticipates clinical trials to begin in one to two years.

This study also addresses risk factors associated with bladder cancer for men and women in uniform. In March 2016, the National Academy of Medicine identified a possible link between bladder cancer and Agent Orange, the herbicide chemical weaponized by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Such a link would place veterans who served during the Vietnam conflict at a higher risk than other groups.

“These studies have potential to improve the health and well-being of our active service members, our veterans, and the general public,” said principal investigator John Sfakianos, MD, Assistant Professor of Urology and Urologic Oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “The ability to detect and reverse NK cell dysfunction in individuals with bladder cancer could also lead to new therapies for patients with other malignancies.”

The study is expected to be completed in three years.

In addition to the study, Mount Sinai is launching a new Center of Excellence for Bladder Cancer to further deepen its commitment to quality care for bladder cancer patients. The co-directors of the center are Matthew Galsky, MD, Director of Genitourinary Medical Oncology at The Tisch Cancer Institute, and Peter Wiklund, MD, PhD, Director of the Bladder Cancer Program of the Mount Sinai Health System.

The Center of Excellence for Bladder Cancer is focused on bringing multi-disciplinary, cutting-edge, and highly personalized care to patients with all forms of bladder cancer. The Center brings together world-class physicians to provide exceptional patient care that draws from our experience, innovation, clinical trials, research, and education.

“The Center of Excellence for Bladder Cancer is part of The Tisch Cancer Institute and uses the most advanced diagnostic and treatment approaches within state-of-the-art facilities,” said Ramon Parsons, MD, PhD, Director of The Tisch Cancer Institute, Chair of Oncological Sciences, and Ward-Coleman Professor in Cancer Research of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Coordinated care teams include Medical Oncology, Surgical Oncology, Radiation Oncology, and Supportive Oncology, and patients will have broad access to comprehensive supportive services, including social workers, financial counselors, and clergy.”

About the Mount Sinai Health System

The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City's largest academic medical system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai advances medicine and health through unrivaled education and translational research and discovery to deliver care that is the safest, highest-quality, most accessible and equitable, and the best value of any health system in the nation. The Health System includes approximately 7,300 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 415 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked on U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of the top 20 U.S. hospitals and is top in the nation by specialty: No. 1 in Geriatrics and top 20 in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology/Lung Surgery, Rehabilitation, and Urology. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked No. 12 in Ophthalmology. Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital is ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” among the country’s best in four out of 10 pediatric specialties. The Icahn School of Medicine is one of three medical schools that have earned distinction by multiple indicators: ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report's "Best Medical Schools," aligned with a U.S. News & World Report "Honor Roll" Hospital, and No. 14 in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding. Newsweek’s “The World’s Best Smart Hospitals” ranks The Mount Sinai Hospital as No. 1 in New York and in the top five globally, and Mount Sinai Morningside in the top 20 globally.

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