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.

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Exercise Training May Slow Tumor Growth and Improve Immunotherapy Outcomes in Breast Cancer Treatment

Exercise plays an important role in preventing a variety of cancers. A recent study has increased the importance of maintaining a well-balanced and active lifestyle – indicating a positive outlook for many breast cancer patients.  National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR)-funded scientist Dr. Rakesh Jain, and his team at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that exercise training may slow tumor growth and improve outcomes for females with breast cancer – especially those treated with immunotherapy drugs. Immunotherapy drugs are treatments that use the body’s immune system to fight diseases like cancer. The research team identified this occurrence to be caused by stimulating naturally occurring immune mechanisms.   The team reached this conclusion in animal models of breast cancer, which showed physical activity increasing levels of cancer-fighting immune cells. Tumors in mouse models of human breast cancer grew more slowly in mice put through their paces in a structured aerobic exercise program than in sedentary mice. The tumors in exercised mice exhibited an increased anti-tumor immune response. Perhaps the most exciting finding of the study was that exercise training brought immune cells capable of killing cancer cells into tumors. The tumors grew more slowly in mice that performed exercise training. Dr. Jain has been an NFCR partner since 1998. He is a renowned world expert in understanding how changes in the microenvironment surrounding tumors affect the immune system, drug delivery, treatment efficacy, and patient survival–with additional expertise in chemical engineering. In addition to his fellowship with NFCR, Dr. Jain is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Medicine. He is the ninth person ever to be elected to all three U.S. National Academies. He is also a Fellow of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Academy. Throughout his career, Dr. Jain has also been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards. Including the 2012 Science of Oncology Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the 2016 National Medal of Science from the President of the United States, Barack Obama. He received the Medal of Science for developing new ways to manipulate tumors. Dr. Jain and his team at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School were able to complete this game-changing research utilizing funding from NFCR. NFCR is dedicated to providing scientists in the lab the funding they need to make game-changing discoveries in cancer treatments, detection, and ultimately, to discover a cure for all types of cancer.  Support innovative and life-saving research findings like the work of Dr. Jain with NFCR. Additional Reads You May Enjoy: NFCR-Supported Researcher Leads Study Aiming to Understand Which Patients May Respond Best to Immunotherapy Immunotherapy: Fighting Cancer and More? Cancer Research Applied to Develop COVID-19 Treatment Strategies Stay connected with the cancer community! Receive our monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips, and more. Sign up here.