Dr. Sabel has several research interests at the University of Michigan. One centers on methods to incorporate the patient's own immune system to recognize and eradicate malignant disease. One "catch-22" in the field of cancer immunotherapy has been that the most successful approaches have been those that are the most technically challenging and expensive, thus limiting the number of patients who may benefit. To overcome this challenge, Dr. Sabel has focused on methods to destroy tumors in the body in a way that stimulates the immune system in a positive fashion. One approach to "in situ vaccination" has been the use of microspheres injected into the tumor to slowly release pro-inflammatory cytokines to stimulate a systemic immune response. Another approach has been the use of cryoablation (freezing tumors), which both destroys the primary tumor and stimulates an anti-tumor immune response. Dr. Sabel is presently exploring these novel therapies in both his laboratory and in clinical trials.
Another area of interest for Dr. Sabel is the identification of new biomarkers that may help guide cancer therapies. The field of oncology is moving towards more personalized medicine, tailoring cancer therapies (surgery, radiation, chemotherapy) based on the unique attributes of the cancer cells. Identifying these attributes can help guide therapy decisions, improving efficacy while sparing the side-effects of therapy from patients who don't require it. Dr. Sabel is involved in several unique aspects of biomarker discovery, including tissue microarray analysis of breast cancer (looking for unique proteins expressed on the surface of breast cancer cells), proteomics in melanoma (which involves detecting antibodies to melanoma-related proteins in the serum), and using morphometric data to predict patient responses to surgery, chemotherapy or immunotherapies.