Member, Department of Cell Biology and Biology
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
New York, New York
Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell involved in innate immunity, the body’s first line of defense against infection. The Benezra lab discovered that neutrophils from patients with early-stage breast cancer also have anti-tumor properties that may prevent the tumor from spreading, or metastasizing. Dr. Benezra’s work has shown that the ability of neutrophils to kill breast cancer cells may be associated with specific cell signaling proteins called cytokines that can be detected in the blood. In laboratory experiments where neutrophils from women without cancer were exposed to these cytokines, their cytotoxicity (cell killing ability) was increased. Dr. Benezra is continuing his work in this area to find ways to stimulate these “tumor killing” neutrophils in breast cancer patients and ultimately inhibit the development and/or progression of metastases.
Robert Benezra, PhD, is a Member at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer in the Department of Cell Biology and a Professor of Biology at Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences in New York City. As a postdoctoral fellow he identified the Id proteins as dominant negative regulators of the helix-loop-helix protein family and has since gone on to identify these proteins as key regulators of tumor growth, angiogenesis and metastasis. In addition, while at Sloan-Kettering, Benezra and his colleagues identified the first human mitotic checkpoint gene, hsMad2, and demonstrated that its deregulation leads to chromosome instability, tumor progression and drug resistance. His program continues to focus on the molecular basis of tumor angiogenesis, tumor instability and metastasis. His current project supported by BCRF is to characterize and exploit a subset of patients' own white blood cells, called neutrophils, that act to inhibit early spread of breast cancer cells to distant organs.