Cycling to End Cancer

Nilofer Azad, M.D.

Nilofer S. Azad, M.D.

Professor of Oncology
Co-Director of the Colorectal Cancer Research Center of Excellence
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center

Dr. Nilofer Azad is a Professor of Oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center (SKCCC) at Johns Hopkins Medicine where she serves as Co-Director of the Colorectal Cancer Research Center of Excellence, and as Co-Director of both the Developmental Therapeutics Clinical Research Program and the Cancer Genetic and Epigenetic Core Research Program.

Dr. Azad was appointed by President Biden to and currently serves on the National Cancer Institute Advisory Board. In addition, Dr Azad has held multiple leadership positions in national and international organizations including serving on the NCI Colon Cancer Task Force, the NCCN Colorectal Cancer Guidelines committee, Chair of the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation Scientific Advisory Board, and leadership on multiple multi-institutional projects including the Epigenetics and Colon Cancer Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C) Dream Teams and the Breakthrough Cancer Foundation’s Targeting KRAS in Pancreatic Cancer Team.

Dr. Azad’s laboratory work is dedicated to bringing state of the science research to patients and forming the foundation of future clinical trials. Her work investigates drugs that work through epigenetic and targeted mechanisms, the intersection of these agents with immunotherapy, as well as novel classes of agents. Dr. Azad is widely considered among the thought leaders in the U.S. and abroad for her tremendous work in these fields of oncology.

After receiving her medical degree from the Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Azad was a Medical Oncology Fellow at the National Cancer Institute for four years. Dr. Azad joined the SKCCC faculty in 2008.

2022 Update

The unrestricted dollars raised from Cycle to End Cancer 2022 funded a correlative study to identify biomarkers for new therapeutic options for colorectal cancer patients.  The study, currently underway, will increase the known profile of colorectal cancer patients responding to immunotherapies.  (Immunotherapy is the super powerful new class of cancer treatments that uses the body’s own immune system to soundly defeat cancer.)  The work expands on a successful clinical trial funded by Standup 2 Cancer and identifies biomarkers of response vs. resistance. 

Eric Christensen headshotDr. Eric Christensen, Co-Principal Investigator, 2022 Study

Stand Up 2 Cancer funded a translationally focused clinical trial which tested an immunotherapy+ with a drug that was a PI3 kinase-targeted therapy.  The regimen was tested in two arms, those with a PI3K mutation (15% of colon cancer patients) vs those without a PI3K mutation. Johns Hopkins and Dana Farber Cancer Institute (Harvard) collaborated on the trial, with Johns Hopkins being the lead site.  The trial found that approximately 1/3 of the patients had some clinical benefit, in a heavily pretreated group of metastatic (stage IV) colorectal cancer patients.  The 33% efficacy far surpassed what would be expected without a meaningful response to the regimen.  Multiple patients are still alive years after starting the trial. 

With the funds from Cycle to End Cancer 2022, Dr. Azad is now doing a deep dive into the tumor biopsies and blood specimens from patients prior to versus on therapy to identify biomarkers of response vs. resistance in this SU2C-funded trial; this is work that is being done here at Johns Hopkins and also at Harvard with our collaborators. The biopsy and blood samples that have been collected are now being interrogated for analysis. They will help answer important questions about exactly who will benefit and why.  Hopefully uncovering new therapeutic options for colorectal cancer patients.  The correlative study will include robust profiling on the tumor immune microenvironment as well as circulating immune cells.  With the information gleaned from the follow up study funded by Cycle to End Cancer, Dr Azad and her team plan to open a new and even more focused clinical trial next year.

This is important research made possible by the funds raised by Cycle to End Cancer 2022.  This work will ultimately help save lives.  Please donate and support Cycle to End Cancer 2023.  Afterall, people’s lives depend on it!

Plans for 2023

Stock graphic of laboratory equipment and science icons

Neeha Zaidi headshotDr. Neeha Zaidi, Co-Principal Investigator, 2023 Study

With the success of Cycle to End Cancer 2022 and the ambitious 2023 goal, Dr Azad and her team are poised to move forward with a new clinical trial for colorectal cancer patients.  They will continue to build on the theme of personalized immunotherapy, and move forward with a clinical trial of a very promising KRAS vaccine in combination with two exciting new colon cancer immunotherapy drugs. This KRAS vaccine has already been piloted in a clinical trial that Dr. Azad has been leading in very advanced stage disease.  The team is seeing patients respond to the new vaccine treatment well.  Dr Azad now plans to run a larger trial, earlier in the disease journey – still in metastatic cancer but right after the first chemotherapy.  The new trial, to be funded by Cycle to End Cancer 2023, pairs the vaccine with the two new immunotherapy drugs.  These new immunotherapy drugs have already shown exciting benefit in colon cancer patients also.  The combination should really create a supercharged approach.

The idea is to use the immunotherapy cocktail as a maintenance strategy to help ensure cancer free survival for more stage IV patients.  This trial is approved and the Cycle to End Cancer funding will allow the Colorectal Cancer Center of Excellence Team to fund the clinical trial this winter. 

This is exciting translational research which could start helping patients in the study this winter.  Your generosity will make a huge difference in the lives of patients and their families.  This is a tremendous opportunity!  Please help!

View our 2023 event page.