Brent A. Hanks, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine
Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
Campus mail 308 Research Drive, Lsrc, Room C203, Durham, NC 27708
Phone (919) 684-1995
Email address

My lab is interested in elucidating the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in tumor-mediated immune suppression and cancer immunotherapy resistance. Our overriding hypothesis is that tumor cells and/or their associated stromal elements elicit soluble factors that tolerize local dendritic cell populations and/or recruit other immunosuppressive cell populations to the tumor bed; thereby, interfering with the generation of an effective anti-tumor immune response. This work has both basic and translational significance in that it is capable of providing 1. novel pharmacological targets for enhancing anti-tumor immunity and 2.  much needed biomarkers for guiding the management of cancer patients with immunotherapies.  We perform these investigations utilizing both transgenic murine models as well as clinical specimens derived from cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy.  We focus these studies on melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and colon cancer. 

We currently have the following ongoing projects in our lab:
1.  Investigating mechanisms by which developing cancers alter the metabolism of local dendritic cells thereby hijacking this antigen-presenting cell population to generate an immunotolerant tumor microenvironment. 
2.  Identifying soluble factors expressed by cancers which manipulate local dendritic cell function to drive regulatory T cell  differentiation within the tumor microenvironment as well as any potential oncogenic signaling pathways driving this process.
3.  Characterizing mechanisms of innate and adaptive resistance mechanisms to checkpoint inhibitor therapies.
4.  Examining the role of the tumor stroma in interfering with immunotherapy efficacy.
5.  Design and development of novel dendritic cell-based vaccine strategies

Education and Training

  • Fellowship, Hematology/Oncology, Duke University School of Medicine, 2008 - 2012
  • Internship and Residency, Internal Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, 2006 - 2008
  • M.D., Baylor College of Medicine, 2006
  • Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine, 2004


Mowery, Yvonne M., Kirtesh Patel, Mudit Chowdhary, Christel N. Rushing, Kingshuk Roy Choudhury, Jared R. Lowe, Adam C. Olson, et al. “Retrospective analysis of safety and efficacy of anti-PD-1 therapy and radiation therapy in advanced melanoma: A bi-institutional study..” Radiother Oncol 138 (September 2019): 114–20.

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Isaacs, James, Andrew B. Nixon, Emily Bolch, Katie Quinn, Kimberly Banks, Brent Allen Hanks, and John H. Strickler. “Blood-based genomic profiling of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) to identify microsatellite instability (MSI-H), tumor mutational burden (TMB) and Wnt/B-Catenin pathway alterations in patients with gastrointestinal (GI) tract cancers..” In Journal of Clinical Oncology, 37:3552–3552. American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), 2019.

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Puza, Charles J., Elizabeth Schell Bressler, Alicia M. Terando, John Harrison Howard, Michael C. Brown, Brent Hanks, April K. S. Salama, and Georgia M. Beasley. “The Emerging Role of Surgery for Patients With Advanced Melanoma Treated With Immunotherapy..” J Surg Res 236 (April 2019): 209–15.

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Nghiem, Paul, Shailender Bhatia, Evan J. Lipson, William H. Sharfman, Ragini R. Kudchadkar, Andrew S. Brohl, Phillip A. Friedlander, et al. “Durable Tumor Regression and Overall Survival in Patients With Advanced Merkel Cell Carcinoma Receiving Pembrolizumab as First-Line Therapy..” J Clin Oncol 37, no. 9 (March 20, 2019): 693–702.

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Gibney, Geoffrey T., Omid Hamid, Jose Lutzky, Anthony J. Olszanski, Tara C. Mitchell, Thomas F. Gajewski, Bartosz Chmielowski, et al. “Phase 1/2 study of epacadostat in combination with ipilimumab in patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma..” J Immunother Cancer 7, no. 1 (March 20, 2019).

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Kwak, Minyoung, Norma E. Farrow, April K. S. Salama, Paul J. Mosca, Brent A. Hanks, Craig L. Slingluff, and Georgia M. Beasley. “Updates in adjuvant systemic therapy for melanoma..” J Surg Oncol 119, no. 2 (January 2019): 222–31.

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Zhao, Fei, Kathy Evans, Christine Xiao, Nicholas DeVito, Balamayooran Theivanthiran, Alisha Holtzhausen, Peter J. Siska, Gerard C. Blobe, and Brent A. Hanks. “Stromal Fibroblasts Mediate Anti-PD-1 Resistance via MMP-9 and Dictate TGFβ Inhibitor Sequencing in Melanoma..” Cancer Immunol Res 6, no. 12 (December 2018): 1459–71.

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Zhao, Fei, Christine Xiao, Kathy S. Evans, Tbalamayooran Theivanthiran, Nicholas DeVito, Alisha Holtzhausen, Juan Liu, et al. “Paracrine Wnt5a-β-Catenin Signaling Triggers a Metabolic Program that Drives Dendritic Cell Tolerization..” Immunity 48, no. 1 (January 16, 2018): 147-160.e7.

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Theivanthiran, Bala, Nicholas C. DeVito, Kathy Evans, Fei Zhao, Christine Xiao, Benjamin S. Goldschmidt, Rob Edgar, et al. “A HSP-TLR-Wnt5a paracrine signaling axis drives CXCR2 ligand recruitment of myeloid-derived suppressor cells and represents a novel adaptive resistance mechanism to anti-PD-1 antibody therapy.” In Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer, Vol. 5. BMC, 2017.


Gnjatic, Sacha, Vincenzo Bronte, Laura Rosa Brunet, Marcus O. Butler, Mary L. Disis, Jérôme Galon, Leif G. Hakansson, et al. “Identifying baseline immune-related biomarkers to predict clinical outcome of immunotherapy..” J Immunother Cancer 5 (2017).

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