Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

Richmond, Virginia
Professor and Chairman, VCU Department of Human and Molecular Genetics
Director, VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine
Thelma Newmeyer Corman Chair of Cancer Research, VCU Massey Cancer Center

Research

Dr. Fisher’s cancer research focuses on the daunting challenge facing clinicians and cancer patients, namely identifying, treating and monitoring cancers once they have metastasized from the primary tumor. His efforts have led to development of novel technologies that simultaneously detect and diagnose tumors as well as effectively treat them – or a theranostic approach. With NFCR funding since 2008, Dr. Fisher is now developing an immunotheranostic by genetically engineering a tumor suppressor previously discovered by him to produce a fluorescent (light) signal, allowing for diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of tumors. The fluorescent signal can be imaged using current non-invasive imaging techniques to detect the precise location of metastatic cells and monitor the tumor size after treatment.

NFCR funding has allowed Dr. Fisher to successfully incorporate the tumor suppressing immuno-theranostic into an ‘adoptive cell therapy’ to reduce prostate tumors in mice. In the laboratory, his adoptive therapy first collects the immune T cells from mice to genetically modify the cells with anticancer genes he discovered. After reinjection, the supercharged T cells seek out and deliver an immune enhancer gene that kills any prostate cancer cells. His therapy also provides an imaging tool to identify all metastases and monitor destruction of the tumor using non-invasive imaging. Dr. Fisher’s immuno-theranostic therapy could effectively treat not only metastatic prostate cancer but has the potential to treat virtually any solid tumor, and with modifications, blood cancers.

Bio

Paul Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D., received his Bachelor’s degree from Hunter College and his Master’s from Lehman College. He went on to get his M.Ph. (Master of Public Health) and Ph.D. from Rutgers University, where he was also a postdoctoral fellow. Dr. Fisher later conducted research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and at Columbia University, where he became a Professor of Clinical Pathology, the Director of Neuro-Oncology Research and the Michael and Stella Chernow Urological Cancer Research Scientist.

Dr. Fisher joined the faculty of the Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) School of Medicine in 2008 and is currently a Professor and Chairman in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics, Director of the VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine and holds the Thelma Newmeyer Corman Chair of Cancer Research in the VCU Massey Cancer Center.

In addition to his NFCR award, Dr. Fisher is a visiting research professor, eminent research scholar and adjunct professor at New York University, and a visiting professor at Burnham Institute for Medical Research. Dr. Fisher won the CaP CURE Award for Prostate Cancer Research in 1995 and the Lustgarten Award in 2003, 2004 and 2005. More recently, Governor Terry McAuliffe recognized Dr. Fisher as Virginia’s Outstanding Scientist of 2014.  Dr. Fisher is an elected member of the National Academy of Inventors. He has more than 55 issued U.S. patents and multiple foreign patents. In 2018, Dr. Fisher was invited to join the new, illustrious editorial board of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) and JNCI Spectrum.

Related Content

The World’s First Oncolytic Virus Drug was Launched to Treat Malignant Brain Tumor GBM

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most aggressive malignant brain tumor in adults, with a median survival of only about ten months. Unlike low-grade gliomas (grades I and II), which grow slowly, high-grade gliomas (grades III and IV) grow much faster and can spread to other parts of the brain, resulting in a patient’s death. GBM is the highest grade brain tumor (grade IV) with a very poor prognosis. The standard treatment for GBM includes surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. However, these limited treatment approaches cannot control the tumor progress, and the rate of brain tumor recurrence is high, resulting in low overall survival (OS) in most patients.   Oncolytic Virus Therapy  Oncolytic virus therapy represents a new promising cancer immunotherapy approach that utilizes genetically modified viruses to infect and kill cancer cells. The viruses are modified to selectively infect and lyse cancer cells through genetic engineering processes while leaving normal cells unharmed. The genetic modification of the viruses also grants them the ability to produce immune-boosting molecules or initiate anti-cancer immunity through multiple mechanisms of the patient’s own immune system.  The First Oncolytic Virus Therapy for GBM  Recently, the world’s first oncolytic virus-based immunotherapy (Teserpaturev) was approved in Japan. Teserpaturev offers a new option for treating GBM and brings new hope to thousands of patients suffering from this malignant brain tumor.  Teserpaturev is a genetically engineered herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). The uniqueness of this new oncolytic virus-based drug is that it not only has strong killing power to brain tumor cells that the virus entered into, but it is also able to kill the tumor cells that have spread to other parts of the brain. This process happens by inducing systemic antitumor immunity of a patient’s own immune system.  In June 2021, Teserpaturev received a conditional and time-limited marketing approval in Japan to treat malignant glioma based on a Japanese phase 2 clinical trial in patients with GBM. The clinical trial results showed that 92% of patients who received Teserpaturev immunotherapy treatment were still alive after one year. This percent is considerably higher than the typical 15% one-year survival rate in this group of patients receiving standard late-stage brain tumor treatments.  Bottom Line Because Teserpaturev is currently under conditional and time-limited marketing approval in Japan, this novel immunotherapy for GBM is only available at specified hospitals in Japan. We hope international multi-center clinical trials on this innovative drug can take place in the near future. Hopefully, the novel therapy can be made available to GBM patients around the world.  Stay up-to-date with the latest information on new drug development. Receive our monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips, and more; sign up here.  Additional Reads You May Also Enjoy: Treating Brain Cancer: What You Need to Know New Brain Scan Technology Can Improve Tumor Removal GBM AGILE – Changing the Way We Fight Brain Cancer References Daiichi Sankyo introduces Delytact in Japan to treat malignant glioma. com, November 2, 2021.  http://www.pharmabiz.com/NewsDetails.aspx?aid=143694&sid=2 First launch for Daiichi Sankyo’s oncolytic virus Delytact in Japan. Pharmaphorum, November 1, 2021.  https://pharmaphorum.com/news/first-launch-for-daiichi-sankyos-oncolytic-virus-delytact-in-japan/

Pancreatic Cancer: Warnings and Wellness

NFCR Chief Medical Officer Shares His Expertise for Improved Pancreatic Cancer Awareness The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR)’s Dr. Brian Leyland-Jones contributed to the popular online platform Eat This, Not That!’s feature in efforts to spread awareness of one of the most deadly and difficult to detect cancers: 11 Warning Signs of Pancreatic Cancer. Dr. Leyland-Jones’ career spans decades, and has led him to become an authority within the pancreatic cancer-fighting community. Dr. Leyland Jones serves as Board Member and Chief Medical Officer for NFCR, offering his extensive expertise to NFCR’s fundraising missions. Boasting over 100 million readers, Eat This, Not That! publishes expert- and research-backed tips on food, nutrition, and health. Dr. Leyland-Jones’ tips on pancreatic cancer awareness help strengthen the deep catalogue of recipes, diet recommendations, and general wellness tips on the popular online platform. Warning Signs Early detection is crucial for early intervention with pancreatic cancer. The disease has an overall five-year survival rate of just 9% and is likely to rise to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. by the year 2030. These facts, coupled with pancreatic cancer’s significant reputation as one of the silent killers, showcase the importance of knowing these 11 warning signs: Blood Clots Ascites Jaundice Sudden Weight Loss Upper Abdominal Pain Depression and Anxiety (Before Diagnosis) Nausea and Vomiting Diabetes Pale Feces and Dark Urine Enlarged Gallbladder or Liver Unexplainable Fatigue Outside of these symptoms, Dr. Leyland-Jones emphasizes the importance of keeping up-to-date on your yearly physicals, stating, “It is very difficult to detect early. For yearly physicals, some people also get PET scans and CT scans. However, the progression is so fast, these kinds of scans would need to be done every six months.” With approximately 60,000 new cases per year, pancreatic cancer will continue to be a significant concern. Know these warning signs and keep up with day-to-day wellness and yearly physicals in order to stay on top of your health!   Did you know that November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month? Subscribe to NFCR social media channels to stay up to date on the latest developments in the fight against pancreatic cancer. You can also visit our donation page to join in our fundraising efforts! Additional Reads You May Enjoy: Thunder God Vine: A Powerful Discovery for Pancreatic Cancer Patients 5 Tips for Eating Healthy While Traveling Coping With Cancer—It’s Different for Everyone Receive our monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips and more. Sign up here. 

Thunder God Vine: A Powerful Discovery for Pancreatic Cancer Patients

With a name as powerful as Thunder God Vine comes great responsibility – and National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR)-funded researcher Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff has proven that this medicinal plant is up for the challenge.  Dr. Von Hoff is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on pancreatic cancer.  He and his team began exploring how thunder god vine — an herb used in China for centuries to treat joint pain, swelling, and fever — could be used for cancer patients. The team was overcome with excitement as they discovered a particular compound in this miracle herb can kill cancer cells and potentially improve clinical outcomes for patients with pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is the ninth and tenth most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and men, respectively, in the United States. It is the fourth deadliest cancer and is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved substantially in over 40 years. An estimated 57,600 new cases of pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, with 47,050 deaths expected to result from the diagnosis. With little to no groundbreaking discoveries or treatment, pancreatic cancer is expected to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States by 2030. The key ingredient of the thunder god vine is called triptolide. Triptolide makes up a molecule called Minnelide, which appears to attack pancreatic cancer cells. It also attacks the tumor’s stroma or outer layer that shields it from the body’s immune system. This allows Minnelide to disrupt ‘super-enhancers,’ strings of DNA that aid the growth and survival of pancreatic cancer cells. The team found that disrupting these super-enhancers attacks the cancer cells and the stroma, which helps accelerate cancer cell death. Thunder god vine is commonly found in China and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years. The approaches that make up traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, tai chi, and herbal products, have been the subjects of many clinical studies and scientific reviews. Researchers have concluded that traditional Chinese medicine may help improve quality of life and certain pain conditions, and it is becoming more and more prevalent in western medicine practices. Today, for example, thunder god vine is used for rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, lupus, psoriasis, fever, amongst other conditions.  This new approach using an old method may provide means for effective treatment options for pancreatic cancer patients, a glimmer of hope that health professionals and patients have long-awaited. To learn more about groundbreaking research undertaken by NFCR-funded researchers, visit our scientist page. Additional Reads You May Enjoy: Controlling the Uncontrollable: HER2 Breast Cancer Propelling the Fight Against Pancreatic Cancer Ancient Wisdom, Modern Cure Stay connected with the cancer community! Receive NFCR’s monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips, and more. Sign up here.