Duke Cancer Institute physician scientist Brent Hanks, MD, PhD, has been elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), one of the nation's oldest medical honor societies. The ASCI supports the scientific efforts, educational needs, and clinical aspirations of physician-scientists to improve health.
In 2019, Hanks was first recognized by ASCI with a Young Physician-Scientist Award in 2019 — one of 35 “outstanding physician-scientists” named that year by the society.
“This is a great honor demonstrating the value that Dr. Hanks’ physician-scientist colleagues place on the high quality of his laboratory work designed to understand the mechanisms of resistance to immunotherapy,” said then-Chief of the Division of Medical Oncology James L. Abbruzzese, MD FACP FASCO DSc (hon) at the time. “Dr. Hanks’ work has the potential to extend the impact of immunotherapy to diseases that have not yet been able to take advantage of this new treatment modality.”
“I have a ton of respect for the mission of the ASCI and their support for the development and training of future physician scientists,” Hanks said upon receiving the Young Physician-Scientist Award. “I believe the role of the physician scientist to be critical for advancing medicine and healthcare into the future and this type of support is vital for making sure this challenging career path remains viable.”
A DCI member since 2013, Hanks is an associate professor in the Department of Medicine and an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology.
He has dedicated more than 20 years of his career to research in the fields of tumor immunology and immunotherapy. In his lab, he explores how cancers have evolved to suppress the generation of tumor antigen-specific immune responses and how to exploit that knowledge to develop more effective cancer immunotherapy strategies. He is working to develop new pharmacologic and genetic strategies to overcome immunotherapy resistance and investigating the mechanisms that contribute to some immunotherapy-associated toxicities. (READ: School of Medicine Faculty Elected to American Society for Clinical Investigation)
In addition to managing an independent research lab, Hanks sees gastroesophageal and gastric cancer patients in DCI's Gastrointestinal Cancer clinic. He made the clinical shift to GI towards the end of 2023 after several years of treating patients with skin cancers, particularly melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma, in order to address the prevalent problem of immunotherapy resistance in these patient populations.
Hanks serves as associate director of Basic/Translational Research in DCI's Center of Cancer Immunotherapy.
He's currently an investigator on 16 different grant projects — including in melanoma, gastroesophageal cancer, gastric cancer, immunotherapy-associated toxicities, immunotherapy resistance, immune evasion, non-small cell lung cancer, and prostate cancer — including six grants funded by the National Institutes of Health (he's PI on three, and a mentor or preceptor on the other three), one by the U.S. Department of Defense (he's PI), four by pharmaceutical companies (he's the PI on all four), and one each by the Conquer Cancer Foundation (he's PI), American Association for Cancer Research (he's PI), Cancer Research Institute (he's PI), and Melanoma Research Foundation (he's PI).
Hanks received his PhD (2004) and MD (2006) from Baylor College of Medicine, and completed both his residency in Internal Medicine (2008) and fellowship in Hematology/Oncology (2012) at Duke University School of Medicine.