Taha Merghoub, PhD., President
Dr. Merghoub is a faculty (Assistant Attending Lab Member) in the Melanoma Sarcoma Service, Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), New York, USA. His research focuses on the interplay between tumors and the immune system in early stages of melanomagenesis, and the development of novel immunotherapeutic treatment strategies for the treatment of melanoma. Dr. Merghoub received his B.A. degree from University of Algiers, Algeria, DES (Diplôme D’Etudes Supérieures) in Genetics. He went on to receive a M.S. (Applied Biology and Genetics) and Ph.D. degree (Human Genetics) with highest distinction from University of Paris 7, France. His thesis work with Dr. Jacques Elion and Dr. Rajagopal Krishnamoorthy focused on the study of genetic polymorphism in the fetal hemoglobin gene in patients with sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. His findings provided insight into the correlation between genotypes and phenotypes among patients with sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. Dr. Merghoub’s graduate work was remarkably productive, with 9 publications in leading peer-reviewed journals (3 as first author, in Blood, European Journal of Human Genetics, and American Journal of Hematology). After graduation in 1997, he pursued his post-doctoral research with Dr. Pier Paolo Pandolfi at MSKCC. He characterized the transcriptional properties of the Pokemon gene and its role during development which led to publications in Nature and Science. He also played an active role in the generation of mouse models for acute promyelocytic leukemia, and furthered his knowledge and experience in mouse genetics. Dr. Merghoub was a Senior Research Scientist in Dr. Alan Houghton’s laboratory from 2002-2008. His research focus included development of mouse models that spontaneously develop melanoma, elucidating the interactions between tumors and the immune system, and examining the role of FAP (fibroblast activation protein-alpha) in tumorigenesis. In 2008 Dr. Merghoub was promoted to Assistant Professor, Melanoma Sarcoma Service, Department of Medicine, MSKCC. His research is focused on examining the systemic immune responses during various stages of tumor progression in mice with spontaneous melanoma as well the establishment of a melanoma repository consisting of cell lines from patients undergoing experimental therapy for melanoma at MSKCC. The repository includes a vast number of cultured melanomas (short-term cultures and cell lines) derived from primary lesions and metastases (skin, lymph node, visceral, lung and bone). The MSKCC collection possesses clinical annotation of tissue site, pathology, response to treatment, and clinical course and outcomes for these cell lines. Dr. Merghoub’s research also involves investigating the therapeutic efficacy of new immunotherapy strategies in combination with novel targeted pathway inhibitors such as Braf inhibitors. The working hypothesis being that agents or drugs which cause tumor cell death (small molecule inhibitors) can result in the release of antigens that will in turn immunize the patient against cancer cells, and the addition of immune modulators (antibodies to PD-1, GITR, OX40 and CTLA-4) will allow for the induction of memory responses which lead to long-term control of tumor growth. The targeted therapies have been shown to have efficacy in melanoma as single agents in both preclinical and early clinical trials. Two of these treatments have been recently approved by the FDA. This work is collaborative involving joint projects with Drs. Merghoub, Jedd Wolchok, James Allison, and Neal Rosen, leaders in the immunology and targeted therapy fields.