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Martha Chekenya Enger, PhD; Dr Philos's picture

Martha Chekenya Enger, PhD; Dr Philos

Professor
  • E-mailMartha.Enger@uib.no
  • Phone+47 55 58 63 80
  • Visitor Address
    Jonas Lies vei 91
  • Postal Address
    Postboks 7804
    5020 Bergen

My  research group, Brain Tumour Immunology and Therapy Group is an integral node of the larger, Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Brain Rumour Research Centre, focussed on biomedical research to study malignant brain tumours.  My particular focus is to elucidate the role of natural killer cells in brain tumour and human cytomegalovirus immunesurveillance. During the last decade we have elucidated the function and clinical impact of the glial progenitor proteoglycan NG2/CSPG4  in  glioblastoma (GBM) progression and response to therapy. We are developing novel therapeutic strategies combining NK cells with mAbs against NG2/CSPG4 and other salient targets that mediate treatment resistance and poor survival in GBM patients. We use multidisciplinary approaches such as annotated population and brain tumour biobanks, as well as physiologically relevant biopsy-based animal models. Diverse analytic tools include but not limited to proteomics, functional magnetic resonance imaging (employing physical properties of tissues to describe biological processes), flow cytometry, and standard molecular and cell biology methods. The long term vision of the group is to develop an immunotherapy trial for GBM patients based on NK cells applied in combination therapies, additional to the standard treatment.

Patients that are diagnosed with the most malignant brain tumour, glioblastoma (GBM), and that are strong enough to tolerate the aggressive standard treatment of surgery, concomitant radiotherapy and chemotherapy will survive on average only 14.6 months. Moreover, less than 10% are alive after 5 years. New effective treatments are urgently needed for this deadly disease. Our research is focussed on developing a novel immunotherapy involving infusion into the tumour of natural killer (NK) cell subsets that  validated for cytotoxic potency . NK cells are white blood cells that are specialised to distinguish tumour or virus infected cells from healthy cells. Interactions (or lack thereof) of NK cells´ killer receptors with stress-induced ligands expressed by the unhealthy cells, transmit death signals that kill the target cells. Greater than 40% of GBM patients express cytomegalovirus (CMV) gene products in their tumour, yet NK cells in the microenvironment that are evolved to eliminate virus infected tumours, remain non-responsive. We investigate whether there is a particular receptor-ligand combination associated with CMV infected GBMs that may render NK cells poorly responsive and allow the tumour to propagate. We are also studying T cell responses generated in parallel to CMV infection,to understand how they contribute to immune contexture of GBMs. The goal is to characterise the tumour infiltrating NK and T cells within GBM biopsies to identify mechanisms of GBM tolerance and immunological escape. We will also investigate NK cell biomarkers that enable selection of  patients/donors with the most effective cells against GBM in preclinical models. The focus will be to functionally validate the receptor-ligand interactions that may determine potent killing of GBM. Once the potent NK and GBM cell receptor-ligand interactions are determined, NK cells will be combined with humanised antibodies against tumour antigens such as NG2/CSPG4,EGFR, or combined with proteasome inhibitors to potentiate tumour killing. Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) expansion methods will be employed to obtain high yield of highly potent cells in preparation for clinical translation.

Journal articles
  • Gras Navarro, Andrea; Espedal, Heidi; Vareecal Joseph, Justin; Moncho, Laura Trachsel; Bahador, Marzieh; Gjertsen, Bjørn Tore; Kristoffersen, Einar Klæboe; Simonsen, Anne; Miletic, Hrvoje; Enger, Per Øyvind; Rahman, Mohummad Aminur; Enger, Martha Chekenya. 2019. Pretreatment of glioblastoma with bortezomib potentiates natural killer cell cytotoxicity through TRAIL/DR5 mediated apoptosis and prolongs animal survival. Cancers. 11:996: 1-25. doi: 10.3390/cancers11070996
  • Rahman, Mohummad Aminur; Gras Navarro, Andrea; Brekke, Jorunn; Engelsen, Agnete; Bindesbøll, Christian; Sarowar, Shahin; Bahador, Marzieh; Bifulco, Ersilia; Goplen, Dorota; Waha, Andreas; Lie, Stein Atle; Gjertsen, Bjørn Tore; Selheim, Frode; Enger, Per Øyvind; Simonsen, Anne; Enger, Martha Chekenya. 2019. Bortezomib administered prior to temozolomide depletes MGMT, chemosensitizes glioblastoma with unmethylated MGMT promoter and prolongs animal survival. British Journal of Cancer. 121: 545-555. doi: 10.1038/s41416-019-0551-1
  • Haspels, Heleen Neeltje; Rahman, Mohummad Aminur; Vareecal Joseph, Justin; Gras Navarro, Andrea; Enger, Martha Chekenya. 2018. Glioblastoma Stem-Like Cells Are More Susceptible Than Differentiated Cells to Natural Killer Cell Lysis Mediated Through Killer Immunoglobulin-Like Receptors-Human Leukocyte Antigen Ligand Mismatch and Activation Receptor-Ligand Interactions. Frontiers in Immunology. 9. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.01345
  • Bahador, Marzieh; Gras Navarro, Andrea; Rahman, Mohummad Aminur; Dominguez Valentin, Mev; Sarowar, Shahin; Ulvestad, Elling; Njølstad, Gro; Lie, Stein Atle; Kristoffersen, Einar Klæboe; Bratland, Eirik; Enger, Martha Chekenya. 2017. Increased infiltration and tolerised antigen-specific CD8+ TEM cells in tumor but not peripheral blood have no impact on survival of HCMV+ glioblastoma patients. Oncoimmunology. 6: 1-15. doi: 10.1080/2162402X.2017.1336272
  • Dominguez Valentin, Mev; Gras Navarro, Andrea; Rahman, Mohummad Aminur; Kumar, Surendra; Retière, Christèle; Ulvestad, Elling; Kristensen, Vessela N.; Lund-Johansen, Morten; Lie, Benedicte Alexandra; Enger, Per Øyvind; Njølstad, Gro; Kristoffersen, Einar Klæboe; Lie, Stein Atle; Chekenya, Martha. 2016. Identification of a natural killer cell receptor allele that prolongs survival of cytomegalovirus-positive glioblastoma patients. Cancer Research. 76: 5326-5336. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-16-1162
  • Gras Navarro, Andrea; Björklund, Andreas T.; Chekenya, Martha. 2015. Therapeutic potential and challenges of natural killer cells in treatment of solid tumors. Frontiers in Immunology. 6:202. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2015.00202
  • Brekke, Cecilie; Wang, Jian; Thuen, Marte; Gras Navarro, Andrea; Huuse-Røneid, Else Marie; Thorsen, Frits Alan; Poli, Aurélie; Zimmer, Jacques; Haraldseth, Olav; Lie, Stein Atle; Enger, Per Øyvind; Chekenya, Martha. 2014. Dynamic contrast enhanced MRI detects early response to adoptive NK cellular immunotherapy targeting the NG2 proteoglycan in a rat model of glioblastoma. PLOS ONE. 9. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0108414
  • Gras Navarro, Andrea; Kmiecik, Justyna; Leiss, Lina Wik; Zelkowski, Mateusz; Engelsen, Agnete; Bruserud, Øystein; Zimmer, Jacques; Enger, Per Øyvind; Chekenya, Martha. 2014. NK cells with KIR2DS2 immunogenotype have a functional activation advantage to efficiently kill glioblastoma and prolong animal survival. Journal of Immunology. 193: 6192-6206. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1400859
  • Kmiecik, Justyna; Gras Navarro, Andrea; Poli, Aurélie; Planaguma, Jesus; Zimmer, Jacques; Chekenya, Martha. 2014. Combining NK cells and mAb9.2.27 to combat NG2-dependent and anti-inflammatory signals in glioblastoma. Oncoimmunology. 3. doi: 10.4161/onci.27185
  • Kmiecik, Justyna; Zimmer, Jacques; Chekenya, Martha. 2014. Natural killer cells in intracranial neoplasms: presence and therapeutic efficacy against brain tumours. Journal of Neuro-Oncology. 116: 1-9. doi: 10.1007/s11060-013-1265-5
  • Rygh, Cecilie Brekke; Wang, Jian; Thuen, Marte; Navarro, Andrea Gras; Huuse, Else Marie; Thorsen, Frits; Poli, Aurélie; Zimmer, J.; Haraldseth, Olav; Lie, Stein Atle; Enger, Per Øyvind; Chekenya, Martha. 2014. Dynamic Contrast Enhanced MRI Detects Early Response to Adoptive NK Cellular Immunotherapy Targeting the NG2 Proteoglycan in a Rat Model of Glioblastoma. PLOS ONE. 9. 12 pages. Published 2014-09-30. doi: 10.1371
  • Torsvik, Anja; Stieber, Daniel; Enger, Per Øyvind; Golebiewska, Anna; Molven, Anders; Svendsen, Agnete; Westermark, Bengt; Niclou, Simone P; Olsen, Thale Kristin; Enger, Martha Chekenya; Bjerkvig, Rolf. 2014. U-251 revisited: genetic drift and phenotypic consequences of long-term cultures of glioblastoma cells. Cancer Medicine. 3: 812-824. doi: 10.1002/cam4.219
  • Kmiecik, Justyna; Poli, Aurélie; Brons, Nicolas H.C.; Waha, Andreas; Eide, Geir Egil; Enger, Per Øyvind; Zimmer, Jacques; Chekenya, Martha. 2013. Elevated CD3(+) and CD8(+) tumor-infiltrating immune cells correlate with prolonged survival in glioblastoma patients despite integrated immunosuppressive mechanisms in the tumor microenvironment and at the systemic level. Journal of Neuroimmunology. 264: 71-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jneuroim.2013.08.013
  • Poli, Aurélie; Kmiecik, Justyna; Domingues, Olivia; Hentges, François; Blery, Mathieu; Chekenya, Martha; Boucraut, José; Zimmer, Jacques. 2013. NK cells in central nervous system disorders. Journal of Immunology. 190: 5355-5362. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1203401
  • Poli, Aurélie; Wang, Jian; Domingues, Olivia; Planaguma, Jesus; Yan, Tao; Brekke, Cecilie; Skaftnesmo, Kai Ove; Thorsen, Frits Alan; McCormack, Emmet; Hentges, François; Pedersen, Paal-Henning; Zimmer, Jacques; Enger, Per Øyvind; Chekenya, Martha. 2013. Targeting glioblastoma with NK cells and mAb against NG2/CSPG4 prolongs animal survival. OncoTarget. 4: 1527-1546.
  • Skeie, Bente Sandvei; Wang, Jian; Dodoo, Ernest; Heggdal, Jan Ingemann; Grønli, Janne; Sleire, Linda; Bragstad, Sidsel Marit; Ganz, Jeremy Christopher; Chekenya, Martha; Mørk, Sverre; Pedersen, Paal-Henning; Enger, Per Øyvind. 2013. Gamma knife surgery as monotherapy with clinically relevant doses prolongs survival in a Human GBM Xenograft Model. Biomedical research. 2013. 9 pages. doi: 10.1155/2013/139674
  • Brekke, Cecilie; Thuen, Marte; Poli, Aurélie; Wang, Jian; Lokka, Guro; Huuse, Else Marie; Thorsen, Frits Alan; Enger, Per Øyvind; Chekenya, Martha. 2012. Early MRI findings of targeting the NG2 proteoglycan in GBM. The FASEB Journal. 26. 1 pages.
  • Kocinski, Marek; Klepaczko, Artur; Materka, Andrzej; Chekenya, Martha; Lundervold, Arvid. 2012. 3D image texture analysis of simulated and real-world vascular trees. Computer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine. 107: 140-154. doi: 10.1016/j.cmpb.2011.06.004
  • Moen, Ingrid; Jevne, Alison Charlotte; Wang, Jian; Kalland, Karl-Henning; Chekenya, Martha; Akslen, Lars A.; Sleire, Linda; Enger, Per Øyvind; Reed, Rolf K.; Øyan, Anne Margrete; Stuhr, Linda Elin Birkhaug. 2012. Gene expression in tumor cells and stroma in dsRed 4T1 tumors in eGFP-expressing mice with and without enhanced oxygenation. BMC Cancer. 12. 10 pages. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-12-21
  • Svendsen, Agnete; Verhoeff, Joost JC; Immervoll, Heike; Brøgger, Jan C; Kmiecik, Justyna; Poli, Aurélie; Netland, Inger Anne; Prestegarden, Lars; Planaguma, Jesus; Torsvik, Anja; Kjersem, Anneli Bohne; Sakariassen, Per Øystein; Heggdal, Jan Ingemann; van Furth, Wouter R; Bjerkvig, Rolf; Lund-Johansen, Morten; Enger, Per Øyvind; Felsberg, Joerg; Brons, Nicolas H.C.; Tronstad, Karl Johan; Waha, Andreas; Chekenya, Martha. 2011. Expression of the progenitor marker NG2/CSPG4 predicts poor survival and resistance to ionising radiation in glioblastoma. Acta Neuropathologica. 122: 495-510. doi: 10.1007/s00401-011-0867-2
  • Wang, Jian; Svendsen, Agnete; Kmiecik, Justyna; Immervoll, Heike; Skaftnesmo, Kai Ove; Planaguma, Jesus; Reed, Rolf K.; Bjerkvig, Rolf; Miletic, Hrvoje; Enger, Per Øyvind; Brekke, Cecilie; Chekenya, Martha. 2011. Targeting the NG2/CSPG4 Proteoglycan Retards Tumour Growth and Angiogenesis in Preclinical Models of GBM and Melanoma. PLOS ONE. 6. 14 pages. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023062
  • Chekenya, Martha; Netland, Inger Anne; Verhoeff, Joost JC; Svendsen, Agnete; Brøgger, Jan; Immervoll, Heike; Planaguma, Jesus; Kjersem, Anneli Bohne; Sakariassen, Per Øystein; Bjerkvig, Rolf; Heggedal, JI; Enger, Per Øyvind; Tronstad, Karl Johan; van Furth, Wouter R. 2010. NG2 PROMOTES RESISTANCE TO IONIZING RADIATION BY ELEVATED PEROXIREDOXIN-1 AND DNA DAMAGE RESPONSE IN GLIOBLASTOMA MULTIFORME. Neuro-Oncology. 12: 8-8.
  • Chekenya, Martha; Wang, Jian; Poli, A; Thuen, Marte; Brekke, Cecilie; Thorsen, Frits Alan; Zimmer, J; Enger, Per Øyvind. 2010. THERAPEUTIC TARGETING OF THE NG2 PROTEOGLYCAN WITH MAB 9.2.27 AND ADOPTIVELY TRANSFERRED NK CELLS LYSES HUMAN GLIOBLASTOMA MULTIFORME IN VIVO. Neuro-Oncology. 12: 9-9.
  • Krakstad, Camilla; Chekenya, Martha. 2010. Survival signalling and apoptosis resistance in glioblastomas: opportunities for targeted therapeutics. Molecular Cancer. 9: 135. doi: 10.1186/1476-4598-9-135
  • Poli, Aurélie MF; Brons, Nicolaas HC; Ammerlaan, Wim; Michel, Tatiana; Hentges, François; Chekenya, Martha; Zimmer, Jacques. 2010. Novel method for isolating untouched rat natural killer cells with higher purity compared with positive selection and fluorescence-activated cell sorting. Immunology. 131: 386-394. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2567.2010.03312.x
  • Moen, Ingrid; Øyan, Anne Margrete; Kalland, Karl-Henning; Tronstad, Karl Johan; Akslen, Lars A.; Chekenya, Martha; Sakariassen, Per Øystein; Reed, Rolf K.; Stuhr, Linda Elin Birkhaug. 2009. Hyperoxic treatment induces mesenchymal to epithelial transition in a rat adenocarcinoma model. PLOS ONE. 4. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006381
  • Verhoeff, Joost JC; Stalpers, Lukas JA; Van Noorden, Cornelius JF; Troost, Dirk; Ramkema, Marja D; van Bree, Chris; Song, Ji-Ying; Donker, Mila; Chekenya, Martha; Vandertop, W Peter; Richel, Dirk J; van Furth, Wouter R. 2009. Angiogenesis inhibitor DC101 delays growth of intracerebral glioblastoma but induces morbidity when combined with irradiation. Cancer Letters. 285: 39-45. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2009.04.038
  • Wang, Jian; Miletic, Hrvoje; Sakariassen, Per Øystein; Huszthy, Peter Csaba; Jacobsen, Hege; Brekka, N; Li, X; Mork, S; Chekenya, Martha; Bjerkvig, Rolf; Enger, Per Øyvind. 2009. PHENOTYPIC MODULATION OF EXPERIMENTAL GLIOMAS: PROGRESSION FROM GLIOMATOSIS CEREBRI-LIKE LESIONS TO GLIOBLASTOMA. Neuro-Oncology. 11: 897-897.
  • Wang, Jian; Miletic, Hrvoje; Sakariassen, Per Øystein; Huszthy, Peter Csaba; Jacobsen, Hege; Brekkå, Narve; Li, X; Zhao, P; Mørk, Sverre; Chekenya, Martha; Bjerkvig, Rolf; Enger, Per Øyvind. 2009. A reproducible brain tumour model established from human glioblastoma biopsies. BMC Cancer. 9. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-9-465
  • Chekenya, Martha; Krakstad, Camilla; Svendsen, Agnete; Netland, Inger Anne; Staalesen, Vidar; Tysnes, Berit Bølge; Selheim, Frode; Wang, Jian; Sakariassen, Per Øystein; Sandal, Tone; Lønning, Per Eystein; Flatmark, Torgeir; Enger, Per Øyvind; Bjerkvig, Rolf; Sioud, M; Stallcup, William B. 2008. The progenitor cell marker NG2/MPG promotes chemoresistance by activation of integrin-dependent PI3K/Akt signaling. Oncogene. 27: 5182-5194. doi: 10.1038/onc.2008.157
  • Joo, Nam E.; Watanabe, Takehiro; Chen, Cindy; Chekenya, Martha; Stallcup, William B.; Kapila, Yvonne L. 2008. NG2, a novel proapoptotic receptor, opposes integrin alpha 4 to mediate anoikis through PKC alpha-dependent suppression of FAK phosphorylation. Cell Death and Differentiation. 15: 899-907. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2008.22
  • Sakariassen, Per Øystein; Immervoll, Heike; Chekenya, Martha. 2007. Cancer stem cells as mediators of treatment resistance in brain tumors: Status and controversies. Neoplasia. 9: 882-892. doi: 10.1593/neo.07658
  • Brekke, Cecilie; Brekke, C; Lundervold, Arvid; Enger, Per Øyvind; Brekken, Christian; Stalsett, E; Stålsett, Eli; Pedersen, Tina Bugge; Haraldseth, Olav; Kruger, PG; Krüger, Per Gøran; Bjerkvig, Rolf; Chekenya, Martha. 2006. NG2 expression regulates vascular morphology and function in human brain tumours. NeuroImage. 29: 965-976. doi: Sesammendrag
  • Sakariassen, Per Øystein; Prestegarden, Lars; Wang, Jian; Skaftnesmo, Kai Ove; Mahesparan, Rupavathana; Molthoff, Carla; Sminia, Peter; Sundlisæter, Eirik; Misra, Anjan; Tysnes, Berit Bølge; Chekenya, Martha; Peters, Hans; Lende, Gabriel; Kalland, Karl-Henning; Øyan, Anne Margrete; Petersen, Kjell; Jonassen, Inge; van der Kogel, Albert; Feuerstein, Burt G.; Terzis, A. Jorge A.; Bjerkvig, Rolf; Enger, Per Øyvind. 2006. Angiogenesis-independent tumor growth mediated by stem-like cancer cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 103: 16466-16471. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0607668103
  • Brekke, Cecilie; Lundervold, Arvid; Enger, Per Øyvind; Brekken, Christian; Stålsett, Eli; Pedersen, Tina Bugge; Haraldseth, Olav; Kruger, Per Gunnar; Bjerkvig, Rolf; Chekenya, M. 2005. NG2 expression regulates vascular morphology and function in human brain tumours. NeuroImage. 29: 965-976. Published 2005-10-25. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.08.0
  • Enger, Per Øyvind; Sakariassen, Per Øystein; Skaftnesmo, Kai Ove; Wang, Jian; Sundlisæter, Eirik; Prestegarden, Lars; Misra, Anjan; Tysnes, Berit Bølge; Chekenya, Martha; Feuerstein, Burt G.; Terzis, A. Jorge A.; Bjerkvig, Rolf. 2004. Angiogenesis-independent growth by brain tumor cells exhibiting cancer stem cell properties. Neuro-Oncology. 6: 309-309.
  • Chekenya, M; Chekenya, M; Hjelstuen, Mari H.; Hjelstuen, Mari H.; Enger, Per Øyvind; Enger, Per Øyvind; Haraldseth, Olav; Bjerkvig, Rolf; Bjerkvig, Rolf. 2002. NG2 proteoglycan promotes angiogenesis-dependent tumor growth in the central nervous system by sequestering angiostatin. The FASEB Journal. 16: 586-588.
Reports and theses
  • Enger, Martha Chekenya. 2006. The NG2 proteoglycan: Functional and therapeutic implications for human brain tumors.

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ORCiD https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7241-3451