• Press Release

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Secures $5 Million NIH Grant for Cutting-Edge Cancer Target Discovery and Development Center

Initiative aimed at identifying novel therapeutic targets for cancer treatment

  • 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.

One such tool, Perturb-map used above, created in the lab of Brian Brown, PhD, enables scientists to see how cancer genes affect not only cancer cells but also how they impact the immune system within tumors. In this case, tumors without the Tgfbr2 gene repel immune cells, while those lacking the Socs1 gene attract cancer-fighting T cells. Credit: Lab of Brian Brown, PhD

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 Mount Sinai Health System

Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with 48,000 employees working across eight hospitals, more than 400 outpatient practices, more than 600 research and clinical labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time—discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.

Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 9,000 primary and specialty care physicians and 11 free-standing joint-venture centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida. Hospitals within the System are consistently ranked by Newsweek’s® “The World’s Best Smart Hospitals, Best in State Hospitals, World Best Hospitals and Best Specialty Hospitals” and by U.S. News & World Report's® “Best Hospitals” and “Best Children’s Hospitals.” The Mount Sinai Hospital is on the U.S. News & World Report® “Best Hospitals” Honor Roll for 2023-2024.

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