October 2023

Featured Publication

Matthew Galsky, MD; Sacha Gnjatic, PhD; John Sfakianos, MD; and colleagues


Gemcitabine and cisplatin plus nivolumab as organ-sparing treatment for muscle-invasive bladder cancer: a phase 2 trial

Nature Medicine. 2023 Oct 2. PMID: 37783966

This paper reports on a phase 2 clinical trial (NCT03451331) in which patients with muscle-invasive bladder cancer (MIBC) received transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) plus cisplatin-based chemotherapy as definitive bladder-sparing treatment. It is among the first prospective trials to define the performance characteristics of uniformly assessed and defined clinical complete response (cCR) as a tool for patient selection for this strategy, and the first to integrate immune checkpoint blockade into this approach. The study demonstrates that stringently defined cCR is associated with favorable survival outcomes and that prolonged bladder-intact survival is achievable in a large subset of patients with MIBC and a cCR to TURBT and gemcitabine, cisplatin, plus nivolumab.

Press Release

Faculty News

Miriam Merad, MD, PhD, was elected to membership in the National Academy of Medicine, “for her groundbreaking discoveries in immunology, establishing for the first time that tissue-resident macrophages form an independent lineage that arises and is maintained independently of adult hematopoiesis, and have unique functional attributes that promote tissue integrity and tissue repair, response to infection, and contribute to tumor outcome.”

Read More 

Press Release

Sundar Jagannath, MD, Director of the Center of Excellence for Multiple Myeloma, was honored with the Waldenström Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Myeloma Society in recognition of his contributions to research and clinical advances in multiple myeloma.

Jennifer Marti, MD, breast surgeon at Mount Sinai-Union Square, was promoted to Associate Professor of Surgery. Dr. Marti practiced at Mount Sinai from 2011 to 2016 and rejoined the team in early 2023. Her research interests focus on new approaches to de-escalate care for patients with breast cancer and minimize overtreatment of low-risk benign lesions and cancers.

Grant Awards

Jeffrey Glassberg, MD, received at U01 grant from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute for “Real Answer (Registry Expansion Analysis to Learn).” Sickle cell disease (SCD) afflicts 100,000 Americans, most of whom are Black, and is a costly per-capita chronic disease. This study will enroll 1200 patients (150 patients from each of eight centers that are part of the NHLBI-funded Sickle Cell Disease Implementation Consortium) to compare effectiveness of novel SCD medications, identify genetic and genomic predictors of response to therapies, and provide SDC providers with an evidence basis for choosing treatments that most effectively limit organ damage. Abdullah Kutler, MD, at Medical College of Georgia is co-PI.

Press Release

Poulikos Poulikakos, PhD, received a 2023 Exceptional Project Grant from the Melanoma Research Foundation for “Targeting an Adaptor Function of CDK6 to Enhance Melanoma Immunotherapy.” Dr. Poulikakos will collaborate with co-investigator Robert M. Samstein, MD, PhD, to investigate a novel pharmacologic approach targeting CDK6 to enhance cancer immunotherapy.

Keith Sigel, MD, PhD, received a R01 grant from the NCI for “Optimizing Treatment of Prostate Cancer in Men Living with HIV.” The aim of the study is to improve the management and outcomes for people living with HIV (PWH) who are diagnosed with clinically localized prostate cancer. Dr. Sigel and team will create a novel microsimulation model for prostate cancer natural history and treatment outcomes in PWH to conduct comparative effectiveness analyses tailored to this population. Results will identify optimal prostate cancer management for PWH to reduce treatment toxicities and maximize survival and quality of life. Co-principal investigators are Elizabeth Chiao, MD, MPH, at MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Ashish Deshmukh, PhD, at Medical University of South Carolina.

Press Release

Hongyan Zou, MD, and Dolores Hambardzumyan, MD, MBA, received a R01 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for “Mapping Immune Contexture and Crosstalk With Tumor Cells at GBM Margin.” The study will focus on understanding glioblastoma (GBM) margins to curb GBM invasion and relapse. It will test the central hypothesis that perturbing the supportive niche provided by margin microgiia—resident innate immune cells in the brain that preferentially congregate at GBM margins—may help slow down GBM invasion and relapse. Co-investigators are Raymund Yong, MD (Neurosurgery); Alexander Tsankov, PhD (Genetics and Genomic Sciences); and Roland Friedel, PhD (Neuroscience and Neurosurgery).

Elisa Port, MD, and Hanna Irie, MD, PhD, received renewed funding from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to study the immune microenvironment of triple negative breast cancer and identify novel therapeutics to enhance efficacy of immunotherapy.

Clinical Trials

Lakshmi Rajdev, MD, is Principal Investigator on an ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group study (EA2212) that was activated in September: A Randomized Phase II Study of Perioperative Atezolizumab +/- Chemotherapy in Resectable MSI-H/dMMR Gastric and Gastroesophageal Junction (GEJ) Cancer. The study will investigate whether perioperative atezolizumab and chemotherapy versus atezolizumab alone will improve event-free survival and tumor regression grade in resectable microsatellite instability-high mismatch repair deficient gastric and gastroesophageal junction cancer.

Shared Resources

2023 TCI Shared Resources Fair

October 26, 12-3 pm

Hatch Auditorium

Hosted by Jerry Edward Chipuk, PhD, Associate Director of Basic Science Shared Resources at TCI


Samir Parekh, MD; Emily Gallagher, MD, PhD; and colleagues


Prevalence and impact of diabetes on survival of patients with multiple myeloma in different racial groups

Blood Advances. 2023 Sep 23.

PMID: 37772981

This study is the first to evaluate racial differences in diabetes mellitus (DM) prevalence and survival in multiple myeloma (MM) as well as the effect of DM on tumor growth in mouse models. Results suggest that DM may contribute to the higher incidence of MM in Black patients, and that DM increases the growth of MM in mouse models. The study highlights that management of comorbidities such as DM may be important for improving MM survival. Going forward, the researchers aim to identify therapies that stop both the development of MM and the overactive insulin signaling pathway they believe may be prevalent in patients with MM and DM.


Press Release

Zhihong Chen, PhD; Bruno Giotti, PhD; Alexander Tsankov, PhD; Dolores Hambardzumyan, PhD, MBA; and colleagues

A paracrine circuit of IL-1β/IL-1R1 between myeloid and tumor cells drives genotype-dependent glioblastoma progression

Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2023 Sep 21. PMID: 37733448

Monocytes and monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) from blood circulation infiltrate glioblastoma (GBM) and promote growth. In this study, Dr. Hambardzumyan and colleagues show that PDGFB-driven GBM cells induce the expression of the potent pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1β in MDM, which engages IL-1R1 in tumor cells, activates the NF-kB pathway, and subsequently leads to induction of monocyte chemoattractant proteins (MCPs). Along with previous findings showing targeting IL-1β can effectively reduce cerebral edema in GBM models, these results further support the application of antagonism of IL-1β as a promising therapy for GBM and provide strong rationales for clinical translation of antagonizing IL-1β in treating GBM.

Douglas Tremblay, MD, and colleagues

Multi-institutional analysis of outcomes in acute myeloid leukemia patients with central nervous system involvement

Leukemia & Lymphoma. 2023 Aug. 17. PMID: 37590099

This study examined the efficacy of intrathecal (IT) therapy for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients with central nervous system involvement (a small subset of AML patients). Results show that IT therapy was effective in rapidly clearing cerebrospinal fluid blasts and improving neurologic symptoms in a majority of patients.


Related Publication: Exclusion of acute myeloid leukemia patients with central nervous system involvement from clinical trials: An analysis of the National Institutes of Health Clinical Trials Registry from 2012-2022

Fred Hirsch, MD, PhD, and colleagues

Unfolding the secrets of small cell lung cancer progression: Novel approaches and insights through rapid autopsies

Cancer Cell. 2023 Sep 11.

PMID: 37699331

The processes that allow small cell lung cancer (SCLC) to progress rapidly are not well understood. In this commentary, Dr. Hirsch and colleagues advocate for the integration of rapid autopsies and preclinical models into SCLC research with the goal of advancing therapeutic options for this deadly disease.

Presentations and Events

TCI Seminar Series

October 17, Noon, Davis Auditorium

Dhyan Chandra, PhD

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

“Mitochondrial Unfolded Protein Response and Racial Disparities in Prostate Cancer”


Icahn Genomics Institute Seminar Series

October 19, 11 am, Davis Auditorium

Daniel Anderson, PhD

Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT

 “In Vivo Delivery of Nucleic Acids, Genome Editing Tools and Cells”


TCI Seminar Series

October 24, Noon, Davis Auditorium

Judith A. Varner, PhD

University of California San Diego

“Critical Roles for P13-Kinases in Tumor Immunology”


TCI Seminar Series

October 31, Noon, Davis Auditorium

Jitendra Badhai, PhD

Netherlands Cancer Institute

“Targetable Drug Combination Exploiting Epigenetic Vulnerabilities in BAP1-Deficient Tumors”

CCI/CI/CM/CPC Nodal Meetings


November 8, 4:30 pm, Hess 5-101—Emanuela Taioli, MD, PhD

December 13, 4:30 pm, Hess 5-101—Saba Alzabin, PhD


These meetings are designed to foster interdisciplinary interactions and collaboration, leading to the development of multi-PI and program project grants.


Questions? Contact Poulikos Poulikakos, PhD, or Steven Burakoff, MD

John Mascarenhas, MD, is co-chairing The Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium, November 8-10 in New York City. Use “Mascarenhas” for free registration

Education News

Four medical students at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai participated in the 2023 TCI Summer Scholars Program. Directed by Janice Gabrilove, MD, Jenny Lin, MD, MPH, and James Ferrara, MD, the program provides stipends for students at Icahn Mount Sinai to conduct original cancer research under the mentorship of a TCI faculty member.

  • “…I learned more about what it means to be an excellent researcher…”
  • “…this program has made me a better researcher and will surely influence my future…”
  • “…I left the summer feeling motivated to pursue a career as a physician scientist.”
  • “Participating…has afforded me the opportunity to conduct my own clinical research project at the intersection of two fields I am passionate about.”

Read more about the students’ positive experiences, their mentors and research projects.

Four medial students participated in the Robert A. Winn Diversity in Clinical Trials: Clinical Investigator Pathway Program (Winn CIPP) at The Tisch Cancer Institute (TCI) this summer. WINN CIPP is designed to expose talented medical students from diverse backgrounds to clinical research in community-based clinical research settings. This was the first year TCI partnered with the Robert A. Winn Diversity in Clinical Trials Award Program.


This positive endorsement from one of the students sums up the value of Winn CIPP: “I’m super excited about…the potential to continue with research, which is something I did not feel capable of prior to this program.”


Click here for the students, their mentors and projects.

Remembering Patients

A Service of Remembrance, honoring and celebrating cancer patients, will be held on October 18 at 12 pm and

October 26 at 6 pm.

More Information


Do you have news for the next issue of TCI Connections

Please send to [email protected].

Remember to share breaking news and high impact news that might be appropriate for media coverage with Marlene Naanes (929-237-5802) in the Press Office. This may include pending FDA drug/device approvals, studies/trial results being published in high-impact journals, and patient stories. The more lead time you can give Marlene, the better—ideally, four weeks or when a paper is accepted by the journal. Embargoes will always be honored and news will only be released with your approval.

  TCI Connections  is a monthly publication of The Tisch Cancer Institute
Ramon Parsons, MD, PhD, Director
Janet Aronson , Editor
Past issues of  TCI Connections  are available on the TCI website