CRI Funded Scientists

Ayana T. Ruffin, PhD, CRI-Irvington Postdoctoral Fellow

Emory University

Area of Research: Melanoma

Dr. Ayana Ruffin is investigating the intricacies of immune response in melanoma patients, focusing on a therapeutic approach targeting Semaphorin 4D (SEMA4D). SEMA4D is expressed on tumor cells, which enhances their survival and prevents immune cells from infiltrating them. Blocking SEMA4D on the other hand enhances the efficiency of immunotherapies like immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) by promoting lymphocyte infiltration and limiting immune suppressing myeloid cells in the tumors. 

Despite advancements in immunotherapy, melanoma presents a considerable health challenge as many patients either do not respond or relapse after treatment. In the recent clinical trial conducted at Emory University, Dr. Ruffin reported that the combination of SEMA4D-blocking drugs with immunotherapy exhibits promising outcomes. This therapy regimen was particularly beneficial for melanoma patients displaying an augmented number of immune cell clusters, known as tertiary lymphoid structures (TLS), in the tumor. 

Building on these findings, Dr. Ruffin’s ongoing project aims to study the details of TLS formation in response to this therapeutic strategy. Through a meticulous examination of patient tumor samples and mouse models of melanoma, she will study the interactions between cells within these structures. Dr. Ruffin aims to understand the details of immune responses, elucidating the factors contributing to varied patient outcomes. The acquired data can be adapted to diverse immunotherapy treatment modalities for patients grappling with distinct cancer types. Dr. Ruffin’s anticipated findings are poised to strategically inform subsequent data-driven clinical trials, marking an advancement towards more efficacious treatments for a broader spectrum of cancer patients.

Dr. Ruffin is supported by the CRI Irvington Postdoctoral Fellowship to Promote Racial Diversity.

Projects and Grants

Harnessing potent B and T cell interactions using novel immunotherapy 

Emory University | Melanoma | 2023 | Chrystal Paulos, PhD

This website uses tracking technologies, such as cookies, to provide a better user experience. If you continue to use this site, then you acknowledge our use of tracking technologies. For additional information, review our Privacy Policy.