Infectious Disease Service

The Infectious Diseases Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering focuses on the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases that can occur in people undergoing treatment for cancer. This service performs clinical and laboratory-based research with the goal of reducing and ameliorating infectious complications in our patient population.

Cancer treatment is rapidly evolving from classical chemotherapeutic and surgical therapies toward precise molecular and immune modulatory treatments that target oncogenes and antigens in a patient’s tumor. The swift progress of the field is changing the spectrum of infections and inflammatory disorders that infectious disease physicians encounter and manage.

Faculty members of the MSK Infectious Diseases Service conduct clinical research on new antimicrobial agents, implement cutting edge technologies to identify, type and track transmissible pathogens, mentor fellows in our Infectious Disease fellowship program and conduct laboratory-based research to discover basic mechanisms of bacterial and fungal infection and pathogen-specific immune defenses.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern around the world. In response to this threat, MSK’s Infectious Diseases (ID) Service has established a clinical and laboratory research program, together with our Lucille Castori Center for Microbes, Inflammation, and Cancer, to investigate the role of the microbiome in preventing or reducing the rate of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Recent studies by MSK investigators, spearheaded by ID faculty members and fellows, have identified commensal bacterial species that confer resistance to infections caused by Clostridium difficile.

Clostridium difficileClostridium difficile, a bacterium that often infects cancer patients, imaged by scanning electron microscopy.  

Close collaborations between the ID Service and the Bone Marrow Transplant, Leukemia, and Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Services at MSK have demonstrated the impact that a patient’s microbiome can have on the outcome of cancer treatment. Clinical trials of microbiome transplants to improve cancer treatment outcomes and reduce infectious complications are under way.

While infectious diseases are a potential problem for all patients, one of the most concerning populations at risk of infection remains patients with compromised immunity due to cancer and its therapy.