Matthew Kulke (, Hematology/Oncology;  Evan Johnson (, Computational Biomedicine; David Sherr (, Environmental Health; Gerald Denis (, Molecular Oncology


Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) target inhibitory receptors on T cells and antigen-presenting cells, and have transformed cancer treatment. Because the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors is dependent on T cell function, factors that affect the host immune environment can have a significant impact on treatment efficacy. Early studies have shown that levels of immunosuppressive metabolites, the host microbiome, and tumor-derived exosomes may play a role in mediating the efficacy of checkpoint inhibitors. All of these factors can be influenced, either directly or indirectly, by socioeconomic status. These associations, however, are essentially unstudied: only 4% of enrollees in clinical trials of immune checkpoint inhibitors have been from under-represented minority populations. To address this knowledge gap, we propose a broad-based study in which we will investigate associations between circulating metabolites, AhR activity, the microbiome, and tumor-derived exosomes on treatment efficacy in patients at Boston Medical Center receiving treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors. Our studies will utilize an expanding cancer biobank within the BU-BMC Cancer Center, and will bring clinical investigators together with laboratory-based investigators in a broad range of fields.  The findings from our study should shed light not only on how specific biomarkers are associated with immune status and treatment outcomes, but also on how these biomarkers may differ in diverse patient populations. As such, our study has broad implications for understanding cancer biology and optimizing cancer treatment.


Head and Neck Cancer Program

  • Peter Everett MD, Section of Hematology/Oncology
  • Heather Edwards MD, Department of Otolaryngology

Gastrointestinal Cancers Program

  • Teviah Sachs MD, Department of Surgery
  • Eric Marks MD, Section of Hematology/Oncology
  • Nana Addo-Tabiri MD, Section of HematologyOncology
  • Hussein Assi MD, Section of Hematology/Oncology

Thoracic Oncology Program

  • Kei Suzuki MD, Department of Surgery
  • Umit Tapan MD, Section of Hematology/Oncology

Cutaneous Oncology Program

  • Adam Lerner MD, Section of Hematology/Oncology
  • Debjani Shah MD, Department of Dermatology