Alan N. Houghton, MD
Vice Chairman for Academic Affairs
2012-2013 BCRF Project:
The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation Award
Department of Medicine
Ludwig Clinical Chair
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
New York, New York
Co-Investigators: Larry Norton, MD
, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY; Jedd Wolchok, MD, PhD
, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY
Effective vaccination against breast cancer is difficult because breast cancer arises from cells that were once normal and our bodies have elaborate controls to stop the immune system from attacking our own tissues. However, research supported by BCRF through generous donations from the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation has discovered a way to trick the immune system by vaccinating against cancer using a vaccine from a different species. The immune system recognizes the vaccine as “foreign” and generates an immune response to destroy breast cancer cells as if they were foreign invaders.
This research has moved from the laboratory to patients—the Investigational New Drug (IND) application for a vaccine created under this support was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the clinical trial to test the first-generation vaccine against breast cancer is accruing patients. Specifically during this past year this team has been able to complete accrual of the third cohort to a clinical study evaluating the DNA vaccine against HER positive (HER+) breast cancer, and all patients enrolled in the study have completed all vaccinations with no significant toxicity. The investigators have also evaluated the efficacy of HER2/neu antibody (equivalent of Herceptin) in combination with anti-CTLA-4 (equivalent of Ipilimumab). They have also evaluated the combination of gemcitabine in combination with anti-CTLA-4. Furthermore, women with early-stage breast cancer have accrued to a clinical trial of ipilimumab and/or cryoablation, also as part of the study.
In the upcoming year, these researchers will continue their investigation of the optimal means to use the immune system to treat breast cancer.
Mid-year Progress: Patient accrual to the last cohort of a clinical study evaluating the HER2/neu DNA vaccine in patients with breast cancer continues. The research team is also evaluating the efficacy of HER2/neu antibody in combination with anti-CTLA-4. Their assessment of the combination of gemcitabine in combination with anti-CTLA-4 continues as well as accrual of women with early-stage breast cancer to a clinical trial of ipilimumab and/or cryoablation.
Alan Houghton is Chairman of the Immunology Program and Chief of the Clinical Immunology Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Head of the Melanoma Disease Management Team and the Laboratory of Tumor Immunology. He holds the Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig chair in Clinical Investigation and is Professor of Medicine and Immunology at Cornell University where he also Chairs the Graduate Program in Immunology (Sloan-Kettering Division).
He is an internationally known expert in cancer immunology, studying how the immune system recognizes and rejects cancer. He is also recognized for his expertise in the treatment of melanoma and for the creation of novel treatments for this deadly form of skin cancer. Dr. Houghton conducted a landmark trial that produced the first significant regression of a solid tumor with a monoclonal antibody. He and his colleagues are presently leading clinical trials in cancer vaccines developed in their laboratories that are currently undergoing clinical trials to prevent cancer recurrence in several solid tumors including breast, prostate, melanoma and small cell lung cancer.
Dr. Houghton was most recently the recipient of the Award for Excellence in Medicine from the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Distinguished Achievement and Leadership Award from the American Skin Association, and is a past recipient of the C. Chester Stock Award for Cancer Research and the Boyer Award for Clinical Research. He is an Editor of the Journal of Experimental Medicine and other journals, and is a member of numerous scientific organizations including honorary elections to The American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians. He has published more than 200 papers and books and served on numerous study sections at the National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society and the Department of Defense.