A Visit With Michael Glickman

Meet Michael Glickman, MD. The Alfred P. Sloan Chair, a Member in the Immunology Program at the Sloan Kettering Institute, and an attending physician on the Infectious Diseases Service of Memorial Hospital, Dr. Glickman is also the Director of MSK’s Center for Experimental Immuno-Oncology (EIO). We sat down with him to discuss the EIO and what’s next in immuno-oncology and immunotherapy.


Who are the members of the Center For Experimental Immuno-oncology?

Anyone who is interested. MSK is a very collaborative environment, and the EIO will build on that tradition. It’s a virtual center—it doesn’t have a fixed laboratory address or membership—that will promote immuno-oncology interactions among the faculty and trainees in every program. Immuno-oncology is the study of how the immune system and cancer interact, which is a lot of ground to cover. Our goal is to bring together diverse sets of scientists, from immunology researchers to those seeing cancer patients, to germinate the new ideas that can only come from this type of cross-disciplinary discussion. 


As we look forward, what do you see as the future of Immunotherapy?

After decades of unrealized promise, immunotherapy has finally burst onto the scene as an effective form of cancer treatment. Despite that, the challenge everybody recognizes is that it’s still ineffective for many patients. There’s a signal of efficacy that we’re very excited about, but we need to make it better. 


How is the EIO tackling that challenge?

Currently most types of immunotherapy are thought to target one arm of the immune system: T cells. But I believe that for the people who don’t respond, there is likely some other part of the immune response that could be harnessed. The Center for Experimental Immuno-Oncology will promote basic science research into the full spectrum of immune system-tumor interactions. By broadening our understanding of the immunology of tumors and why patients don’t respond to these treatments, we should be able to target other cell types and immune pathways that can expand the response rate. One of the EIO’s key initiatives is to design and build a cell bank and searchable database of immune cells from a wide variety of tumors. Our cell bank will be an invaluable resource not only for today’s investigators, but also for researchers in the years to come. This field is growing every day, and someone may have an idea five years from now that we can’t even imagine right now. The goal of the EIO is to make sure that when inspiration strikes, MSK scientists have the resources and collaborators necessary to transform that idea into immunotherapy treatments that improve the lives of people with cancer. 


Where are scientists looking for the next Immunotherapy targets?

Everywhere. There are all sorts of other immune cells that potentially have anti-tumor properties, but I won’t pretend I know what the next breakthrough will be. The hallmark of many discoveries is that we don’t always anticipate where they will come from, they arise from unexpected cross-disciplinary connections, which the EIO center will foster. That’s why philanthropy is so important: it fuels discovery today and in the future.