Dr. Neil H. Bander completed fellowship training in urological oncology under Dr. Willet F. Whitmore, Jr. and an NIH Immunology Training Fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Lloyd Old, both at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. After coming to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medicine (NYPH/WCM), he focused on clinical urological oncology and the development of monoclonal antibodies for targeted cancer therapy.
Beginning in the late 1990s, Dr. Bander directed his efforts to the field of prostate cancer. His research group developed the first monoclonal antibodies to prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) that could effectively bind prostate cancer cells. As a result of Dr. Bander's efforts, PSMA has become recognized as the most prostate-cancer specific cell surface antigen known.
Dr. Bander's research team was the first to show that after an antibody binds to PSMA, the antibody-PSMA complex is rapidly internalized into the targeted cancer cell. This finding supports the potential to use PSMA-binding agents to target either radiopharmaceuticals or highly potent drugs that will be selectively internalized by the cancer cells to specifically kill the tumor cells without causing damage to normal cells.
Dr. Bander's team pioneered the application of PSMA-targeted agents to patients in clinical trials dating back to the early 2000's. These studies demonstrated that the lead antibody, designated J591, is capable of virtually flawless targeting of tumor sites wherever they are in the body. In addition to successful targeting, a significant proportion of the patients demonstrated anti-tumor activity such as PSA declines and tumor shrinkage of as much as > 90%. These trials validated the utility of targeting PSMA and spawned the high level of interest and activity in PSMA-targeted imaging and therapy now taking place around the world.
Seeing the early clinical data with the agents developed in his lab, Dr. Bander predicted that such agents had the potential to transform how prostate cancer patients are diagnosed, monitored and treated. His vision has, in recent years, begun to bear fruit, and PSMA PET imaging and therapeutics have become some of the most promising recent advances in the prostate cancer field [see: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=PSMA].
Dr. Bander's group previously completed a Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Laboratory - Clinical Transition Award to develop a PSMA antibody-drug conjugate (ADC). This work led to an ADC based on one of Dr. Bander's antibodies that is now in clinical trials in the US and Europe sponsored by a major pharmaceutical company.
The NYPH/WCM Uro-Oncology research team has sponsored over 15 clinical trials with anti-PSMA antibodies and, more recently, small molecule PSMA agents in prostate cancer patients. As of 2018, over 500 patients have been treated in these trials at WCM/NYPH.
As a result of these efforts, the lead antibody, J591, has been licensed by several biotech/pharma partners who are developing both J591-radiopharmaceuticals and J591-drug conjugates in clinical trials in the US, Europe and Australia.
Since late 2016, the NYPH/WCM Uro-Oncology research team has conducted studies combining the use of small molecule plus antibody for targeting PSMA. Data in Dr. Bander's lab indicates that such a combination can substantially increase the dose to tumor without increasing side effects and thus has the potential to increase treatment potency to new levels. The NYPH/WCM Uro-Oncology research team is also actively targeting alpha particles—the most potent cell-killing agents known—using the J591 antibody. These efforts, which include related active clinical trials, are unique to WCM/NYPH as the WCM/NYPH PSMA team continues to forge the path forward in the PSMA effort against prostate cancer.
Dr. Bander has exemplified the role of a surgeon-scientist. He used his clinical background and laboratory efforts to develop a translational research program that has spawned novel clinical trials that are unique in urological oncology and have already made a difference in the lives of prostate cancer patients.
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