Graduate student Hanna Starobinets is interested in the ways that tumor cells communicate with their microenvironment, especially the blood cells and immune cells that have a significant impact on tumor growth and metastases.
In the study she presented at the April 2015 UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center retreat in Santa Cruz, she and her colleagues conducted genetic manipulations to better understand these communications between tumor cells and the microenvironment. In particular, they inhibited autophagy in mouse breast tumors and melanomas and evaluated consequences in tumor vasculature and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes.
They also identified changes in angiogenic and inflammatory secretion from autophagy-deficient tumor cells. The hope is that these studies will help identify clinical context for targeting autophagy and their potential for combining with other therapies, including immunotherapies.
“UCSF has some of the best immunology labs in the world and because this is a very collegial place, I was able to consult with the people in those labs, even though I work out of Parnassus,” says Starobinets. “Those collaborations will continue to be important as we continue this work.”
>more about Hanna in UCSF Synapse