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Immunotherapy Expert Joins NYUCD

Immunotherapy Expert Dr. Fang-An Chen Joins College of Dentistry
In a move designed to further strengthen its cancer research program, the College of Dentistry has appointed Dr. Fang-An Chen, an immunotherapy expert and former NYU School of Medicine faculty member, as an Adjunct Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

Dr. Chen brings with him a $1 million, three-year, NIH grant, "Biodegradable Hydrogel Mediated Anti-Cancer Immunotherapy." The study seeks to assess the impact of injecting a time-release interleukin formulation into human tumors grafted onto immunodeficient mice. Although the anti-tumor and anti-viral effects of interleukins are well-known, their use in systemic injections has been linked to severe side effects and, in some cases, death. Dr. Chen will evaluate whether or not the tumor injection mobilizes human lymphocytes implanted in the tumor to mount an immune response, thus bypassing the severe side effects derived from systemic administration. His study is the first to assess whether injecting a time-release interleukin formulation into a tumor leads to a more evenly-distributed and sustained immune response.

The study focuses on head and neck tumors because they are relatively easy to pinpoint for injection, compared to tumors deep inside the body, such as in the lungs and kidneys. And unlike most other forms of cancer, in which tumors turn lethal mainly after spreading from their original location, a local tumor is the major cause of mortality in head and neck cancer, making it logical to explore tumor injection as a treatment strategy.

Dr. Chen will recruit 24 head and neck cancer patients from the School of Medicine to donate tumors and lymphocytes for analysis, in a process coordinated by three coinvestigators -- Dr. Tuyet-phuong Tran, an SOM Assistant Professor of Head and Neck Surgery, Dr. Mark D. DeLacure, Chief of SOM's Division of Head and Neck Surgery, and Dr. M. Abraham Kuriakose, Professor and Chairman of the Head & Neck Institute of the Amrith Institute of Medical Science.

In announcing Dr. Chen's appointment, Associate Dean for Research Dr. Louis Terracio said: "We look forward to synergy between Dr. Chen and faculty members involved in research on cancer's earlier stages, such as Dr. Joseph B. Guttenplan and Dr. Peter G. Sacks, both Professors of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology. Dr. Guttenplan is evaluating how estrogen metabolites damage DNA and trigger breast cancer in laboratory mice, and Dr. Sacks is researching the process by which precancerous mouth lesions turn malignant. By sharing their expertise, the three researchers will contribute to a broader understanding of cancer's progression and the development of highly targeted prevention and treatment strategies."

Born in Shanghai, China, Dr. Chen holds a diploma and a Master's Degree in traditional Chinese Medicine from Shanghai Traditional Chinese Medicine College, and a Ph.D. in molecular immunology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has worked in cancer research for more than 20 years, first as a member of the faculty of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, and then at NYU's School of Medicine.

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