Brent A. Hanks, MD, PhD

Associate 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


Hanks, B. A. “The Influence of the Tumor Microenvironment on Checkpoint Inhibitor Efficacy: Lessons Learned from Targeting the TGF-β Signaling Pathway.,” n.d.


Hanks, B. A. “Targeting the TGF-β Signaling Pathway to Augment the Efficacy of Immunotherapy Checkpoint Inhibitors in Melanoma,” n.d.


Zhao, F., K. Evans, C. Xiao, A. Holtzhausen, and B. A. Hanks. “The Wnt5a-β-catenin Pathway Triggers a Metabolic Switch That Drives Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase Activity and Dendritic Cell Tolerization in the Melanoma Microenvironment.” In Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer, 82:8–9. BioMed Central, n.d.


Hanks, B. A. “Utilizing Pre-Clinical Melanoma Models to Design Rational Combinatorial Immunotherapy Regimens : Lessons Learned from Targeting the TGF-beta Signaling Pathway.,” n.d.


Thievanthiran, Bala, Nicholas DeVito, Kathy Evans, and B. A. Hanks. “Inflammasome-Wnt Ligand Signaling Axis Promotes Immune Escape During Anti-PD-1 Antibody Immunotherapy.” In Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer. BioMed Central, n.d.