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December 13, 2019

Moshe Elkabets, PhD

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

ICRF Research Career Development Award Grant Recipient

Dr. Moshe Elkabets’ laboratory is located in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Genetics at Ben-Gurion University. His lab focuses primarily on performing translational experiments on targeted therapeutics and immunotherapy for gynecologic and head and neck cancers.

The incidence of metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) continues to increase, with low survival rates and poor responsiveness to therapy. The predominant treatment for HNSCC is the FDA-approved drug, cetuximab (commercially known as Erbitux). Although the initial response to cetuximab is usually positive, over time, patients typically develop resistance to the drug and experience disease relapse.

Mounting evidence indicates that the tumor microenvironment plays an important role in the acquisition of resistance to targeted therapies, but the underlying mechanisms of that process remain elusive. Dr. Elkabets and his team aim to understand the role of host cells (non-malignant cells or stromal cells) in the tumor microenvironment after treatment with cetuximab in head and neck cancer, by using tumor specimens from HNSCC patients.

In a recently-published paper, Dr. Elkabets reported that his lab has discovered a new mechanism of resistance to cetuximab in patients. He now aims to use this new knowledge to improve the anti-tumor potential of cetuximab in head and neck cancer by investigating new drug combinations. Specifically, he proposes to elucidate the mechanisms that regulate the migration of stromal cells into the tumor site that limit the efficacy of cetuximab, and speculates that blocking the migration or accumulation of those cells may potentially serve as a new treatment for patients with head and neck cancer.

Dr. Elkabets and his wife, Karen Schlissel Elkabets, live in the Kibbutz of Beit Kama. They have three children.

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