The Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center (MECC) at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center is a national leader in cancer research and care located in the heart of Bronx, NY, one of the nation’s largest ethnically diverse areas. Founded in 1971 and designated an NCI Cancer Center in 1972 (the country’s fourth), MECC combines the exceptional science of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine with the comprehensive clinical care of the Montefiore Health System. The mission of MECC is to reduce the burden of cancer in the Bronx and the nation through exceptional cancer research, education and training, and community outreach and engagement, as well as through the delivery of compassionate care for all —including historically marginalized communities that face heightened inequities in cancer and social determinants of health.
Recognized as a leader in the delivery of multidisciplinary, team-based cancer care, the Cancer Center is an anchor in its diverse urban community and serves as a national model for community outreach and engagement and catchment area research.
Research at Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center
MECC works to reduce the burden of cancer in its Bronx catchment area and beyond through transdisciplinary research in four distinct program areas linked by cross-cutting themes: cancer disparities and inequities in the Bronx; tumor and organ microenvironments; molecular variations as determinants of outcome; and prevention, early detection, and interception of primary and recurrent disease. The Cancer Center has more than 170 members who engage in research in the following areas:
- The Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis (TMM) research program is focused on developing advanced imaging technologies and innovative animal models to study how the tumor microenvironment—the ecosystem surrounding and supporting a tumor—initiates and sustains the spread of cancer through the body. The program’s overarching goal is to translate basic mechanistic findings into therapies for preventing, diagnosing, and evaluating metastatic cancer. By elucidating each stage of the metastatic process, investigators aim to identify novel therapeutic targets and biomarkers that will help personalize the prevention and treatment of the metastatic process.
- Stem Cell and Cancer Biology (SCCB) investigators study blood cancers and solid tumors with a focus on the molecular and cellular mechanisms that drive the pre-cancer and cancer stem cells and the mechanisms that render these cells resistant to therapy. They are investigating the mechanisms of epigenetic and transcriptional regulation driving lineage specification decisions, which have important implications for tumor formation. SCCB-specific aims include characterizing novel molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate the earliest stages of carcinogenesis, investigating basic mechanisms of transcriptional and epigenetic regulation, chromatin structure, and post-transcriptional regulation, and elucidating the molecular pathogenesis of blood cancers. Work is underway to develop therapies that target cancer-initiating stem cells and to prevent the development and progression of cancer.
- The Cancer Therapeutics (CT) program is a long-standing MECC effort aimed at developing and implementing innovative strategies for the discovery, design, and development of novel anticancer agents, combination regimens, and/or therapy-focused technologies. Through intensive collaborations with the other MECC research programs, CT serves as the hub that integrates and advances basic and translational findings to the clinic. Its primary goals are to discover, design and develop immuno-biologics and novel small molecules for cancer therapy, and to translate preclinical science and discoveries into clinical trials.
- Scientists in the Cancer Epidemiology, Prevention & Control (CEPC) program investigate behavioral, environmental, and molecular risk at the root of the development of cancer. They identify the viral causes of cancer (HPV, HIV, HCV) as well as the contribution of hormonal factors, obesity and inflammation, and genetic/epigenetic factors. CEPC members are also focused on various aspects of cancer prevention, health care delivery, health inequity, survivorship, and outcomes. This program plays a pivotal role in the Cancer Center’s public health mission and is tightly integrated with the community outreach and engagement initiatives.
MECC’s strength in clinical research is underscored by its enrollment of patients to more than 320 clinical trials annually, many of them focused on practice-changing, early-phase science.
Select Scientific Initiatives at Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center
MECC has a track record of major accomplishments in basic, translational, clinical, and population sciences as well as community outreach and engagement that have been paradigm-shifting and practice-changing. Select achievements include:
- Discovered the mechanism of action for paclitaxel, which led to the widespread clinical use of Taxol and its application in cancer therapeutics worldwide.
- Developed novel transition state inhibitors by exploring transition state structures for specific enzyme targets. These studies have led to the approval of forodesine (BCX1777) for peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL) in Japan and the development of transition state inhibitors for MTAP, MAT2A, and MTAN to be used alone or in combination with other agents to treat human cancers.
- Served as Principal Investigators of the landmark Phase III clinical trial (E1199) showing that adjuvant weekly paclitaxel improves overall survival in stage II-III breast cancer. This practice-changing clinical study significantly influenced the clinical practice of early-stage breast cancer around the globe.
- Functioned as clinical investigator leads (in the U.S.) to validate prognostic gene expression signatures in early-stage breast cancer.
- Identified the critical importance of the TGF-ß pathway in the pathogenesis of MDS, which then provided the rationale for the clinical development of novel TGF-ß inhibitors.
- Developed phosphatase inhibitor menadione (vitamin K3) as a novel agent to protect and/or treat the skin toxicity associated with targeted agents that target the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR).
- Chaired the landmark TAILORx clinical trial that used the Oncotype DX Recurrence Score in clinical decision-making for adjuvant therapy of women with early-stage ER-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer. This practice-changing study demonstrated that the recurrence rate with endocrine therapy alone in low-risk patients was sufficiently low so that these patients could be spared systemic chemotherapy.
- Made pivotal contributions to the discovery, development, evaluation, and validation of novel technologies and methodologies for the prevention of HPV-associated cancer.
- Identified potential biomarkers for identifying the subset of patients with ER+/HER2- breast cancer who have an increased risk for developing metastatic disease.
- Made key contributions to the development of CAR T-cell programs that led to the clinical trials pivotal for approval of axicabtagene ciloleucel (Yescarta) for mantle cell lymphoma.
- Published findings that residual ER-positive breast cancer following preoperative chemotherapy represents a risk factor for worse outcomes in Black women but not in white women—possibly because of biological differences in how the tumor microenvironment responds to chemotherapy.
- Developed a first-in-class BAX activator as a novel paradigm for inducing apoptosis in cancer that can be used alone or in combination with BCL-2/BCL-Xl inhibitors for treating human cancers.
- Discovered a new immune checkpoint pathway that consists of the HHLA2 ligand and the KIRD3 receptor and developed a novel antibody that may be used alone or in combination with other immunotherapies to treat a broad range of human cancers.
- Developed a novel class of highly modular engineered immunomodulatory biologics using the synTac platform that provides a unique opportunity for the facile replacement of the antigenic peptide to realize a wide range of biologics that are specifically tuned to the patients individualized neoantigens.
- Confirmed that CART-T therapy for various blood cancers is equally effective in Black and Hispanic patients, with no statistical difference in clinical outcomes or side effects, when compared to White patients.
This profile was provided by Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center.