Brian Nam, M.D.

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Brian Nam, M.D.

Brian Nam, M.D.

Director of Robotic Thoracic Surgery

Expertise & Research Interests

  • Thoracic Surgery


  • B.A., Northwestern University
  • M.D., University of Minnesota

Brian Nam, M.D.

Director of Robotic Thoracic Surgery

Dr. Brian Nam is the director of Robotic Thoracic Surgery at ChristianaCare.


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Selected Papers and Publications

Syntaphilin Regulates Neutrophil Migration in Cancer

Cancer Immunology Research

Pathologically activated neutrophils (PMN) with immune suppressive activity, which are termed myeloid-derived suppressor cells (PMN-MDSC), play a critical role in regulating tumor progression. These cells have been implicated in promoting tumor metastases by contributing to pre-metastatic niche formation. This effect was facilitated by enhanced spontaneous migration of PMN from bone marrow to the pre-metastatic niches during the early-stage of cancer development. The molecular mechanisms underpinning this phenomenon remained unclear. In this study, we found that syntaphilin (SNPH), a cytoskeletal protein previously known for anchoring mitochondria to the microtubule in neurons and tumor cells, could regulate migration of PMN. Expression of SNPH was decreased in PMN from tumor-bearing mice and cancer patients as compared to PMN from tumor-free mice and healthy donors, respectively. In Snph-knockout (SNPH-KO) mice, spontaneous migration of PMN was increased and the mice showed increased metastasis. Mechanistically, in SNPH-KO mice, the speed and distance travelled by mitochondria in PMN was increased, rates of oxidative phosphorylation and glycolysis were elevated, and generation of adenosine was increased. Thus, our study reveals a molecular mechanism regulating increased migratory activity of PMN during cancer progression and suggests a novel therapeutic targeting opportunity.

Ferroptosis of tumour neutrophils causes immune suppression in cancer


Ferroptosis is a non-apoptotic form of regulated cell death that is triggered by the discoordination of regulatory redox mechanisms culminating in massive peroxidation of polyunsaturated phospholipids. Ferroptosis inducers have shown considerable effectiveness in killing tumour cells in vitro, yet there has been no obvious success in experimental animal models, with the notable exception of immunodeficient mice1,2. This suggests that the effect of ferroptosis on immune cells remains poorly understood. Pathologically activated neutrophils (PMNs), termed myeloid-derived suppressor cells (PMN-MDSCs), are major negative regulators of anti-tumour immunity3–5. Here we found that PMN-MDSCs in the tumour microenvironment spontaneously die by ferroptosis. Although decreasing the presence of PMN-MDSCs, ferroptosis induces the release of oxygenated lipids and limits the activity of human and mouse T cells. In immunocompetent mice, genetic and pharmacological inhibition of ferroptosis abrogates suppressive activity of PMN-MDSCs, reduces tumour progression and synergizes with immune checkpoint blockade to suppress the tumour growth. By contrast, induction of ferroptosis in immunocompetent mice promotes tumour growth. Thus, ferroptosis is a unique and targetable immunosuppressive mechanism of PMN-MDSCs in the tumour microenvironment that can be pharmacologically modulated to limit tumour progression.

Abstract C046: Polymorphonuclear myeloid derived suppressor cells die by ferroptosis in the tumor microenvironment

Cancer Research

Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) in the tumor microenvironment (TME) function as an immunosuppressive shield that protects the tumor from the host’s immune system and considered a barrier to effective immunotherapy. Here, we focused on polymorphonuclear (PMN)-MDSCs, the most prevalent MDSCs in the TME, to identify mechanisms regulating their maintenance, turnover, and accumulation. Using four mouse models of cancer including autochthonous pancreatic adenocarcinoma from KPC genetically engineered mice (KrasG12D/p53R172H, PdxCre), we found that PMN-MDSCs spontaneously die by ferroptosis, a non-apoptotic form of regulated cell death triggered by the discoordination of regulatory redox mechanisms culminating in massive peroxidation of polyunsaturated phospholipids. Only PMN-MDSCs within the TME were observed to spontaneously undergo ferroptosis. In mice, ferroptosis-related gene expression in CD11b+L6ClowLy6G+ PMN-MDSC isolated from bone marrow, spleen, and tumor demonstrated tumor-specific ferroptosis across tumor models. In humans, whole transcriptomic analysis of PMN-MDSC sorted from tumors and matched blood of lung cancer patients vs blood of healthy donors revealed up-regulation of genes involved in the regulation of ferroptosis in tumor PMN-MDSC. Ferroptosis gene signatures correlated with the PMN-MDSC signatures in pancreatic cancer patients and was associated with worse overall survival. Thus, ferroptosis is an unappreciated, prominent pathway of cell death of PMN-MDSCs in cancer linked to clinical outcome in patients with pancreatic cancer. Citation Format: Rina Kim, Ayumi Hashimoto, Nune Markosyan, Vladimir A. Tyurin, Yulia Y. Tyurina, Shuyu Fu, Mohit Sehgal, Laura Garcia-Gerique, Gozde Kar, Andrew Kossenkov, Bereket A. Gebregziabher, John W. Tobias, Kristin Hicks, Hui Deng, Laxminarasimha Donthireddy, Andrew Greenberg, Brian Nam, Yulia Nefedova, Valerian E. Kagan, Robert H. Vonderheide, Dmitry Gabrilovich. Polymorphonuclear myeloid derived suppressor cells die by ferroptosis in the tumor microenvironment [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Special Conference on Pancreatic Cancer; 2022 Sep 13-16; Boston, MA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2022;82(22 Suppl):Abstract nr C046.
Selected Honors and Awards
  • Delaware's Top Doctors, Cardiology: Thoracic, 2022