Determining which cancer patients will benefit from macrophage modulation

My name is Sara Schad and I am a rising junior here at William and Mary. I am a biology major and specifically interested in biomedical research.  This summer I will be conducting research off-campus in a medical oncology laboratory at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. This lab as a whole analyzes cancer cell lines (breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer ect) to determine which cell lines will best react to chemotherapy.  If it is known that a certain cell line won’t respond well to chemotherapy, as indicated by the cancer cells not dying with radiation exposure, than alternative treatments might be considered to avoid unnecessary radiation.  In addition to determining how close a cell is to cell death, and the likely hood that chemotherapy will have a positive impact in destroying the tumor, this lab also investigates how to push a cancer cell closer to cell death.  This can be done by using macrophages in your immune system. We have two general types of macrophages that either promote or destroy cancer cells (M1 macrophages promote tumor growth while M2 macrophages promote cell death).  If we can chemically alter the genetic make-up of M1 macrophages to inhibit tumor growth and thus promote cell death, than certain cancer patients might be more likely to see positive results with chemotherapy.  My role in this larger process is to use a technique called BH3-profiling which is a method of determining how close a cell is to death.  I aim to test over 20 cell lines and contribute my results to the lab’s previous findings that will eventually be published in a scientific journal and optimally lead to a successful clinical trial drug and treatment.