Merve Deniz Abdusselamoglu, PhD, CRI-Carson Family Fellow The Rockefeller University To be able to combat cancer, we need to better understand how tumors progress from healthy tissues to untreatable malignancies resistant to existing therapies. Specifically of interest is the tumor stem cells that are resistant to chemotherapy and immunotherapy. How these tumor stem cells transition from being recognized and attacked by immune cells to being refractory remains unclear. Dr. Abdusselamoglu hypothesizes that a group of tumor stem cells, that can be identified by a certain marker, have capacity to drive malignancy and invasiveness, and these cells might shape their microenvironment, especially the immune cells in order to evade immune attacks. Using skin cancer as a model, which is among the most aggressive and unresponsive tumors as a cohort, Dr. Abdusselamoglu aims to understand how and when this specific group of tumor stem cells emerge during tumorigenesis, how they are different from remaining tumor stem cells, and how they manipulate their surrounding immune cell population to escape various existing therapies. Specifically, she will monitor tumor stem cells and their neighboring immune cells during tumor progression. She will then map the molecular changes that occur in these various tumor stem cells. And finally, she will dissect the crosstalk between tumor stem cells and immune cells. By identifying central players involved in evolution of tumor stem cells from benign to therapy-resistant and communication between them and immune cells, this study will provide a unique angle for new therapeutic approaches. Projects and Grants Deciphering how immune: stem cell crosstalk shapes cancer aggression The Rockefeller University | All Cancers | 2022 | Elaine Fuchs, Ph.D.