Solid Tumors: Identification of Biomarkers with Emphasis on Tumor Antigens for Cancer Vaccines
My research interests are human tumor immunology and molecular pathology of solid tumors. In tumor immunology, the focus of the laboratory has been in cancer antigen discovery, particularly in the identification of tumor antigens that can be used for therapeutic cancer vaccines. In collaboration with the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, New York Branch for over 15 years, this effort has resulted in the identification and characterization of many tumor antigens in various tumors. In melanoma, we have produced and characterized monoclonal antibodies against melanocyte differentiation antigens tyrosinase (T311) and Melan-A (A103). These antibodies are not only useful in selecting patients for antigen-specific cancer vaccine trials but have also emerged as the most useful antibodies in the diagnosis of metastatic melanomas. In other types of solid tumors, the research focus of our laboratory has been on cancer/testis (CT) antigens, a group of antigens that were normally expressed only in germ cells of the testis but were found to be aberrantly expressed in human cancers. Our lab has identified many CT antigens, including NY-ESO-1, SSX, CT7, CT10, and more recently CT45, CT46 and CT47 etc. Multiple international cancer vaccine trials using NY-ESO-1 as the antigen target are currently ongoing. The mRNA and protein expression of other CT antigens are being evaluated to identify the most promising ones for cancer immunotherapy. In molecular pathology of the solid tumors, we are interested in identifying molecular markers that can be useful in the diagnosis, treatment, or prognostication in the solid tumors. Over the last several years, multiple projects have been carried out in collaboration with faculty members in various subspecialty areas of surgical pathology, many of them involving residents and fellows. The projects completed to date encompass tumors of the gastrointestinal tract, lung, thyroid, breast, kidney, prostate, bladder, salivary gland etc.