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

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.

Natural Killer (NK) Cell-based Treatment Demonstrates Its Potential to Become an Effective Novel Cancer Therapy

Natural Killer (NK) cells are specialized lymphocytes that play critical roles in the immune response against abnormal cells, including all kinds of cancer cells. Different from T cells that need to be pre-activated by antigen-presenting cells before gaining the killing power, NK cells can quickly respond to a wide variety of cancer cells and kill them “naturally” without any prior antigen-presenting activation. Furthermore, NK cells can secrete several special molecules or immune-enhancing cytokines that act on other types of immune cells, such as macrophages, to strengthen the attack on cancer cells. Therefore, NK cell-based treatment approaches are gaining increased attention in the field of cancer immunotherapy. Recently, impressive data from a phase I clinical trial of NK cell-based therapy was presented at the virtual Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) by a research team from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Cord blood-derived natural killer (cbNK) cells were used in the trial to treat recurrent or refractory CD30-positive lymphomas, and the results showed that the objective response rate is 100% amongst the four patients enrolled, which is very encouraging although the trial is still in its initial stage. The researchers strengthened the cancer-killing capability of NK cells by arming them with “biological weapons” AFM13 engagers. These AFM13 engagers are bispecific antibodies that are able to specifically and simultaneously bind target molecules CD30 on leukemia/lymphoma cells and NK-activating receptors CD16A on various types of NK cell. The groundbreaking clinical trial on these AFM13 pre-complexed NK-cells demonstrates that the bispecific engager AFM13 has the potential to help NK cells target and destroy cancer cells not only more effectively—but also safely. No major or common side effects, such as cytokine release syndrome, neurotoxicity syndrome, or graft-versus-host disease, were observed during the trial. Inspired by the positive clinical trial results, the research team, led by Dr. Katayoun Rezvani at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, is planning to further develop the NK cell-based treatment into an effective novel cancer therapy for treating lymphoma, leukemia, and solid tumors in the future. Additional Reads You May Enjoy: Lymphoma is Largely Gone After Covid-19 Infection: demonstrating the Power of the Immune System Catching Cancer Cells on Their Way to Spreading 3 Important Tips For Immuno-Oncology Drug Treatment If you feel the information is helpful, please sign up for our e-newsletter here and or make your generous gift here so that we can continue to bring such information to you and keep you connected with the cancer research community. References: 1. Affimed Announces Presentation at AACR Highlighting Initial Data from Phase 1 Study of Cord Blood-derived Natural Killer Cells Pre-complexed with Innate Cell Engager AFM13. Intrado GlobeNewswire, April 9, 2021. https://www.globenewswire.com/en/news-release/2021/04/09/2207312/0/en/Affimed-Announces-Presentation-at-AACR-Highlighting-Initial-Data-from-Phase-1-Study-of-Cord-Blood-derived-Natural-Killer-Cells-Pre-complexed-with-Innate-Cell-Engager-AFM13.html 2. Combining AFM13, a bispecific CD30/CD16 antibody, with cytokine-activated cord blood-derived NK cells facilitates CAR-like responses against CD30+ malignancies. Clinical Cancer Research, May 13, 2021; https://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2021/04/29/1078-0432.CCR-21-0164

New Brain Scan Technology Can Improve Tumor Removal

Any illness or disease that impacts the brain is highly complex. None more so than brain tumors, which affect over 20,000 Americans each year. While surgeons have become more advanced in the removal of brain tumors, experts continue to face extreme challenges in ensuring all cancerous tissues are removed during surgery. That is, until now.  A recent study found a high-intensity focused ultrasound 2.5 times more effective at identifying cancerous tissue than surgeons alone and significantly better than traditional ultrasound. The newly identified ultrasound cancer treatment technique is referred to as shear wave elastography.  Shear wave elastography measures the stiffness and stretch within the tissue, with vibrations moving faster through stiffer tissue. Brain tumors tend to be stiffer than normal brain tissue, allowing the new method to map suspicious areas of particular stiffness. In the study, researchers compared this high-intensity focused ultrasound to the standard ultrasound cancer treatment and a surgeon’s opinion regarding which tissues to remove.  The study used these three different techniques on a total of 26 patients. All of the techniques were compared with gold-standard MRI scans after the surgery – which while effective, are exceptionally time-consuming and expensive.  While the shear wave elastography ultrasound cancer treatment proved to be the most effective with 94% sensitivity (compared to 73% for the standard ultrasound tumor removal and 36% for the surgeon’s opinion), researchers concluded that the shear wave scans may yield more false positives than surgeons.  Ensuring all of a brain tumor is removed without damaging healthy tissue is a major challenge in brain surgery. This new type of scan can greatly increase a surgeon’s confidence that no cancer tissue is left behind in surgery.  The use of this unique ultrasound in cancer treatment makes a significant stride towards improving the health outlook for brain cancer patients. The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) is also providing new hope in the realm of brain cancer through its partnership with Global Coalition for Adaptive Research (GCAR). GCAR is a nonprofit organization comprised of some of the world’s foremost physicians, clinical researchers and investigators united in expediting the discovery and development of cures for patients with rare and deadly diseases. GCAR is the official sponsor of GBM AGILE, an adaptive platform trial for patients with glioblastoma (GBM) – the most common and deadliest of malignant primary brain tumors. The GBM AGILE has been developed with a revolutionary approach to defeating GBM, with the goal of enabling faster and more efficient testing of new agents and combination therapies, better identification of predictive and prognostic biomarkers and delivery of more effective treatments to all glioblastoma patients. GBM AGILE is an innovative approach for treating brain cancer, providing new hope where little existed before. NFCR continues to fund innovative researchers paving the way to finding new screening methods, treatments, and cures for all cancers, including brain cancer. To learn more about the progress that NFCR-funded scientists are making in the way of brain cancer, visit the NFCR Brain Cancer page.  Additional Reads You May Enjoy: “Pink Drink” to Aid Brain Tumor Treatment Treating Brain Cancer: What You Need to Know GBM AGILE – Changing the Way We Fight Brain Cancer Stay connected with us! […]