Faculty and Research

Richard B. Bankert

Richard B. Bankert, V.M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Microbiology and Immunology
Department of Microbiology and Immunology
217 Biomedical Research Building
3435 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14214

Tele: (716) 829-2701
Fax: (716) 829-2662

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1973, Ph.D. U. Penn Grad. Sch. Arts & Sciences, Phila., PA
1970-19731, NIH Postdoc, U. Penn, Sch. of Med., Philadelphia, PA
1968, U. Penn Sch. of Vet. Med., Phiadelphia, PA
1962, Bachelor of Arts, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA

Research Interests:

We are studying the immune response of cancer patients to their tumors. The inability of cancer patients to eradicate their tumors and the ineffectiveness of cancer vaccines are not due simply to a failure to generate tumor-specific lymphocytes or to the lack of these lymphocytes reaching the tumor.  Our data support the notion that once present in the tumor microenvironment tumor specific lymphocytes become hypo-responsive and fail to attack and kill tumor cells. This hypo-responsiveness is due to an arrest or checkpoint in the T cell receptor signaling machinery. Our studies are designed to gain a better understanding of the molecular events that are responsible for the signaling arrest and to determine ways that this arrest can be reversed.

Our goal is to design new immunotherapeutic strategies for patients with advanced cancer.  Our approach is to reactivate tumor specific lymphocytes that exist within the tumor microenvironment using a variety of different ways we have found to reverse the signaling arrest in these cells.  By reactivating the tumor specific cells in one tumor mass it is expected that there will be a release of tumor antigens (from the dead and dying cells) into the blood thereby inducing a systemic anti-tumor immunity that will seek out and eliminate tumor cells at distant untreated sites. These therapeutic strategies, called in situ vaccinations, are being developed in our lab using local and sustained delivery of biologically active factors, called cytokines into tumors using cytokine loaded liposomes, biodegradable microspheres and oncolytic viruses that have been genetically engineered to produce and release cytokines.  Our strategies are being tested pre-clinically in a model developed in our lab in which non-disrupted human tumor tissues are engrafted into immunodeficient mice.  The human tumor xenografts include both the tumor, the tumor associated stromal fibroblalsts and the inflammatory cells including lymphocytes.  This model has made it possible for us to evaluate and predict the therapeutic efficacy of our protocols before we try them in patients. We are also working in close collaboration with cancer clinicians and surgeons to translate our findings into the clinic with the treatment of cancer patients.

Currently there is insufficient knowledge of how the human immune system is activated and regulated within tumor microenvironments.  It will be essential to define the molecular and cellular events that shape and alter the function of human tumor associated lymphocytes in order to design and develop the most therapeutically effective immunotherapies for cancer. To this end we are investigating how different cells within the tumor microenvironment (including fibroblasts, inflammatory leukocytes, and tumor cells) and their secreted products amplify or arrest lymphocyte responses to tumor cells.

Relevant references:

Nazareth, M.R., Broderick, L., Simpson-Abelson, M.R., Kelleher, R.J., Jr., Yokota, S.J. and Bankert, R.B.  Characterization of human lung tumor-associated fibroblasts and their ability to modulate the activation of tumor-associated T cells.  J. Immunol. 178: 5552-5562, 2007.  PMID: 17442937

Stanford, M.M., Barrett, J.W., Gilbert, P-A., Bankert, R. and McFadden, G.  Myxoma virus expressing human IL-12 does not induce myxomatosis in European rabbits.  J. Virol. 81: 12704-12708, 2007 .  PMID: 17728229

Simpson-Abelson, M. and Bankert, R.B.  Targeting the TCR signaling checkpoint: a therapeutic strategy to reactivate memory T cells in the tumor microenvironment.  Expert Opin Ther Targets. 12: 477-490, 2008.  PMID: 18348683

Simpson-Abelson, M.R., Sonnenberg, G.F., Takita, H., Yokota, S.J., Conway, T.J., Jr., Kelleher, R.J., Jr., Shultz, L.D., Barcos, M. and Bankert, R.B.  Long-term engraftment and expansion of tumor-derived memory T cells following the implantation of non-disrupted pieces of human lung tumor into NOD-scid IL2Rγnull mice.  J. Immunol. 180: 7009-7018, 2008.  PMID: 18453623

Hilchey, S.P., Hyrien, O., Mosmann, T.R., Livingstone, A.M., Friedberg, J.W., Young, F., Fisher, R.I., Kelleher, R.J., Jr., Bankert, R.B. and Bernstein, S.H.  Rituximab immunotherapy results in the induction of a lymphoma idiotype-specific T-cell response in patients with follicular lymphoma: support for a “vaccinal effect” of rituximab.  Blood 113: 3809-3812, 2009.  PMID: 19196657

Simpson-Abelson, M., Purohit; V.S., Pang, W.M., Iyer, V.; Odunsi, K., Demmy, T.L., Yokota, S.J., Loyall, J.L., Kelleher, Jr., R.J., Balu-Iyer, S. and Bankert, R.B.  IL-12 Delivered Intratumorally by Multilamellar Liposomes Reactivates Memory T Cells in Human Tumor Microenvironments.  J. Clin. Immunol. 132: 71-82, 2009.  PMID: 19395317

Bernstein, J.M., Brooks, S.P., Lehman, H.K., Pope, L., Sands, A., Shultz, L.D. and Bankert, R.B.  Human nasal polyp microenvironments maintained in a viable and functional state as xenografts in the NOD-scid IL2rγnull mouse.  Ann. Otology, Rhinology, Laryngology 118: 866-875, 2009.

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Our faculty operates in state-of-the-art laboratories with easy access to core facilities, including genome sequencing; Affymetrix gene chip microarray stations; Laser scanning confocal and TIRF microscopy and robotic high through-put crystallization screening.

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