Neil H. Bander   Bernard and Josephine Chaus Professor of Urological Oncology

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Director, Urological Oncology Research

Dr. Bander completed fellowship training in clinical 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. After coming to NYPH-Weill Cornell, he focused on clinical urological oncology and the development of monoclonal antibodies for targeted cancer therapy. He has directed both a laboratory and translational clinical research program.

Dr. Bander initially concentrated in the area of kidney cancer where he developed the world's largest panel of monoclonal antibodies to normal kidney and kidney cancer-related antigens. His studies defined the antigenic phenotype of normal and neoplastic kidney cells and further elucidated the histogenesis of renal cancer. By demonstrating that both normal proximal tubular cells and renal cancers could be routinely established in tissue culture, and in autologous combinations (from the same patient), he demonstrated that renal cancer is an unparalleled model system for in vitro study of solid tumors. He defined multiple molecular subsets of renal cancer long before it was recognized that there were multiple subtypes of renal cancer, before it was recognized that these subtypes had distinct clinical behaviors and well before molecular profiling of cancers came into vogue. Dr. Bander directed the first clinical trials of monoclonal antibodies in renal cancer. The efforts of Dr Bander and his colleagues succeeded in demonstrating that the “G250” antibody was capable of specifically targeting primary and metastatic renal cancer sites in patients better than any other agent. Their 1993 publication became a prototype of how antibodies should be evaluated in early clinical trials, and this paper was selected by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and reprinted as a 'classic' paper in the field. The G250 antibody completed a phase 3 trial as an immuno-PET imaging agent in 2010 and is pending FDA approval. It continues in clinical therapeutic development in multi-center trials in the US, Europe and Australia.

In the mid '90s, Dr. Bander re-directed his antibody targeting efforts to the field of prostate cancer. Dr. Bander's group developed the first series of monoclonal antibodies to prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) that could bind viable prostate cancer cells. In part as a result of Dr. Bander’s efforts, PSMA has become recognized as the most prostate-cancer specific cell surface antigen known. His group became the first to show that, in addition to prostate cancer,& PSMA was expressed by tumor vascular endothelium, but not normal vascular endothelium. Other groups have now confirmed this finding and have shown that virtually all types of solid tumors express PSMA on their blood supply. Furthermore, Dr. Bander's group was the first to show that after antibody binds to PSMA, the antibody-PSMA complex is rapidly internalized into the targeted cell. These novel findings by Dr. Bander's research group indicate the clinical potential of these antibodies extends beyond prostate cancer to encompass virtually all types of solid tumors. Further, they indicate the potential to use the antibody to target either radioisotopes or highly potent drugs that will be selectively internalized by the cancer cells or their blood supply where the isotope or drug will specifically kill the tumor cell without causing toxicity to normal cells.

Lastly, Dr. Bander's group has led the way in translating these basic research findings to patients. The Weill-Cornell/NYPH Uro-Oncology group has sponsored over a dozen clinical trials using these anti-PSMA antibodies in both prostate cancer patients as well as patients with other types of tumors. As of 2010, over 300 patients have been treated in these trials. The team is testing antibody alone, antibody-targeted radioisotopes and antibody-targeted drugs. These studies have 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 have evidence of anti-tumor activity such as PSA declines and tumor shrinkage of up to 90 percent. These studies have led to the recent initiation of a large, multicenter, randomized phase 2 trial in high-risk prostate cancer patients who have rapidly rising PSAs despite prior surgery and hormonal therapy but who do not yet have evidence of disease on imaging studies. While these high-risk patients generally develop metastatic disease within 1-2 years, the goal of the trial is to see if treatment with radiolabeled J591 can prevent the development of metastatic disease and thereby prevent death from prostate cancer. This trial is being led by the Weill-Cornell/NYPH team and will include centers throughout the US. Dr. Bander was recently awarded a Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Laboratory to Clinical Translation Grant to further develop J591-targeted drug therapy currently in pre-clinical development.

In conclusion, Dr. Bander has exemplified the role of a clinician-scientist. He has used his laboratory efforts to develop clinical reagents that have spawned novel clinical trials that are unique in urological oncology.


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