Research Summary

Karin Pelka’s lab studies the cellular interactions that shape immune responses in human tumors, focusing on how these responses are regulated. Using a combination of large-scale genomic analyses and tissue imaging approaches, Pelka has identified hubs in tumor tissues where tumor cells come into close contact with immune cells. By characterizing the cells in these hubs, and the gene networks that are turned on in these cells, she aims to uncover novel ways to harness the immune system in the fight against cancer.

Research Funding

  • April 8, 2021 - August 31, 2024 - Malignant Cell Engagement in Immune Circuits of Human Microsatellite-stable and Microsatellite-instable Colorectal Cancer , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R00CA259511
  • July 1, 2020 - June 30, 2022 - Can scRNAseq-derived gene programs predict anti-PD-1 response in high TMB CRC and NSCLC patients? , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: , Sponsor Award ID: SU2C-AACR-PS-32
  • June 1, 2019 - November 30, 2021 - Exploiting myeloid cells to gain immune control of human colorectal cancer , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: SU2C Peggy Prescott Early Career Scientist Award, Sponsor Award ID: PA-6146
  • April 1, 2021 - August 31, 2021 - Malignant Cell Engagement in Immune Circuits of Human Microsatellite-stable and Microsatellite-instable Colorectal Cancer , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: K99CA259511

Education

  • Leibniz Kolleg, Tübingen, Germany, 2005, Interdisciplinary Studies
  • University of Bonn, Germany, MS, 2010, Molecular Biomedicine
  • University of Bonn, Germany, PhD, 2016, Innate Immunity
  • UMass Medical School, Worcester, Research Fellow, 2016, Innate Immunity
  • Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Postdoctoral Fellow, 2021, Cancer immunology, Systems biology

Honors & Awards

  • 2021
    NIH Pathway to Independence Award K99/R00, NCI
  • 2020
    SU2C Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Award
  • 2019
    SU2C Peggy Prescott Early Career Scientist Award in Colorectal Cancer Research
  • 2019
    BroadIgnite Award supporting bold ideas of early-career scientists
  • 2018 – 2020
    Research fellowship of the German Research Foundation
  • 2018
    Poster award for the best poster at the MGH Cancer Center retreat
  • 2013 – 2015
    German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and BFB travel awards

Selected Publications

  1. Albers JJ, Pelka K. Listening in on Multicellular Communication in Human Tissue Immunology. Front Immunol. 2022; 13:884185.  View on PubMed
  2. Chen B, Scurrah CR, McKinley ET, Simmons AJ, Ramirez-Solano MA, Zhu X, Markham NO, Heiser CN, Vega PN, Rolong A, Kim H, Sheng Q, Drewes JL, Zhou Y, Southard-Smith AN, Xu Y, Ro J, Jones AL, Revetta F, Berry LD, Niitsu H, Islam M, Pelka K, Hofree M, Chen JH, Sarkizova S, Ng K, Giannakis M, Boland GM, Aguirre AJ, Anderson AC, Rozenblatt-Rosen O, Regev A, Hacohen N, Kawasaki K, Sato T, Goettel JA, Grady WM, Zheng W, Washington MK, Cai Q, Sears CL, Goldenring JR, Franklin JL, Su T, Huh WJ, Vandekar S, Roland JT, Liu Q, Coffey RJ, Shrubsole MJ, Lau KS. Differential pre-malignant programs and microenvironment chart distinct paths to malignancy in human colorectal polyps. Cell. 2021 12 22; 184(26):6262-6280.e26.  View on PubMed
  3. Pelka K, Hofree M, Chen JH, Sarkizova S, Pirl JD, Jorgji V, Bejnood A, Dionne D, Ge WH, Xu KH, Chao SX, Zollinger DR, Lieb DJ, Reeves JW, Fuhrman CA, Hoang ML, Delorey T, Nguyen LT, Waldman J, Klapholz M, Wakiro I, Cohen O, Albers J, Smillie CS, Cuoco MS, Wu J, Su MJ, Yeung J, Vijaykumar B, Magnuson AM, Asinovski N, Moll T, Goder-Reiser MN, Applebaum AS, Brais LK, DelloStritto LK, Denning SL, Phillips ST, Hill EK, Meehan JK, Frederick DT, Sharova T, Kanodia A, Todres EZ, Jané-Valbuena J, Biton M, Izar B, Lambden CD, Clancy TE, Bleday R, Melnitchouk N, Irani J, Kunitake H, Berger DL, Srivastava A, Hornick JL, Ogino S, Rotem A, Vigneau S, Johnson BE, Corcoran RB, Sharpe AH, Kuchroo VK, Ng K, Giannakis M, Nieman LT, Boland GM, Aguirre AJ, Anderson AC, Rozenblatt-Rosen O, Regev A, Hacohen N. Spatially organized multicellular immune hubs in human colorectal cancer. Cell. 2021 09 02; 184(18):4734-4752.e20.  View on PubMed
  4. Filbin MR, Mehta A, Schneider AM, Kays KR, Guess JR, Gentili M, Fenyves BG, Charland NC, Gonye ALK, Gushterova I, Khanna HK, LaSalle TJ, Lavin-Parsons KM, Lilley BM, Lodenstein CL, Manakongtreecheep K, Margolin JD, McKaig BN, Rojas-Lopez M, Russo BC, Sharma N, Tantivit J, Thomas MF, Gerszten RE, Heimberg GS, Hoover PJ, Lieb DJ, Lin B, Ngo D, Pelka K, Reyes M, Smillie CS, Waghray A, Wood TE, Zajac AS, Jennings LL, Grundberg I, Bhattacharyya RP, Parry BA, Villani AC, Sade-Feldman M, Hacohen N, Goldberg MB. Longitudinal proteomic analysis of severe COVID-19 reveals survival-associated signatures, tissue-specific cell death, and cell-cell interactions. Cell Rep Med. 2021 05 18; 2(5):100287.  View on PubMed
  5. Thada S, Horvath GL, Müller MM, Dittrich N, Conrad ML, Sur S, Hussain A, Pelka K, Gaddam SL, Latz E, Slevogt H, Schumann RR, Burkert S. Interaction of TLR4 and TLR8 in the Innate Immune Response against Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Feb 04; 22(4).  View on PubMed
  6. Filbin MR, Mehta A, Schneider AM, Kays KR, Guess JR, Gentili M, Fenyves BG, Charland NC, Gonye ALK, Gushterova I, Khanna HK, LaSalle TJ, Lavin-Parsons KM, Lilly BM, Lodenstein CL, Manakongtreecheep K, Margolin JD, McKaig BN, Rojas-Lopez M, Russo BC, Sharma N, Tantivit J, Thomas MF, Gerszten RE, Heimberg GS, Hoover PJ, Lieb DJ, Lin B, Ngo D, Pelka K, Reyes M, Smillie CS, Waghray A, Wood TE, Zajac AS, Jennings LL, Grundberg I, Bhattacharyya RP, Parry BA, Villani AC, Sade-Feldman M, Hacohen N, Goldberg MB. Plasma proteomics reveals tissue-specific cell death and mediators of cell-cell interactions in severe COVID-19 patients. bioRxiv. 2020 Nov 03.  View on PubMed
  7. Johnstone SE, Reyes A, Qi Y, Adriaens C, Hegazi E, Pelka K, Chen JH, Zou LS, Drier Y, Hecht V, Shoresh N, Selig MK, Lareau CA, Iyer S, Nguyen SC, Joyce EF, Hacohen N, Irizarry RA, Zhang B, Aryee MJ, Bernstein BE. Large-Scale Topological Changes Restrain Malignant Progression in Colorectal Cancer. Cell. 2020 09 17; 182(6):1474-1489.e23.  View on PubMed
  8. Lareau CA, Ludwig LS, Muus C, Gohil SH, Zhao T, Chiang Z, Pelka K, Verboon JM, Luo W, Christian E, Rosebrock D, Getz G, Boland GM, Chen F, Buenrostro JD, Hacohen N, Wu CJ, Aryee MJ, Regev A, Sankaran VG. Massively parallel single-cell mitochondrial DNA genotyping and chromatin profiling. Nat Biotechnol. 2021 04; 39(4):451-461.  View on PubMed
  9. Ludwig LS, Lareau CA, Ulirsch JC, Christian E, Muus C, Li LH, Pelka K, Ge W, Oren Y, Brack A, Law T, Rodman C, Chen JH, Boland GM, Hacohen N, Rozenblatt-Rosen O, Aryee MJ, Buenrostro JD, Regev A, Sankaran VG. Lineage Tracing in Humans Enabled by Mitochondrial Mutations and Single-Cell Genomics. Cell. 2019 03 07; 176(6):1325-1339.e22.  View on PubMed
  10. Pelka K, Bertheloot D, Reimer E, Phulphagar K, Schmidt SV, Christ A, Stahl R, Watson N, Miyake K, Hacohen N, Haas A, Brinkmann MM, Marshak-Rothstein A, Meissner F, Latz E. The Chaperone UNC93B1 Regulates Toll-like Receptor Stability Independently of Endosomal TLR Transport. Immunity. 2018 05 15; 48(5):911-922.e7.  View on PubMed
  11. Christ A, Günther P, Lauterbach MAR, Duewell P, Biswas D, Pelka K, Scholz CJ, Oosting M, Haendler K, Baßler K, Klee K, Schulte-Schrepping J, Ulas T, Moorlag SJCFM, Kumar V, Park MH, Joosten LAB, Groh LA, Riksen NP, Espevik T, Schlitzer A, Li Y, Fitzgerald ML, Netea MG, Schultze JL, Latz E. Western Diet Triggers NLRP3-Dependent Innate Immune Reprogramming. Cell. 2018 01 11; 172(1-2):162-175.e14.  View on PubMed
  12. Pelka K, De Nardo D. Emerging Concepts in Innate Immunity. Methods Mol Biol. 2018; 1714:1-18.  View on PubMed
  13. Chen JH, Pelka K, Hacohen N. Heavy Metal Enlightens Tumor Immunity. Cell. 2017 05 04; 169(4):567-569.  View on PubMed
  14. Bossaller L, Christ A, Pelka K, Nündel K, Chiang PI, Pang C, Mishra N, Busto P, Bonegio RG, Schmidt RE, Latz E, Marshak-Rothstein A. TLR9 Deficiency Leads to Accelerated Renal Disease and Myeloid Lineage Abnormalities in Pristane-Induced Murine Lupus. J Immunol. 2016 08 15; 197(4):1044-53.  View on PubMed
  15. Pelka K, Shibata T, Miyake K, Latz E. Nucleic acid-sensing TLRs and autoimmunity: novel insights from structural and cell biology. Immunol Rev. 2016 Jan; 269(1):60-75.  View on PubMed
  16. Eigenbrod T, Pelka K, Latz E, Kreikemeyer B, Dalpke AH. TLR8 Senses Bacterial RNA in Human Monocytes and Plays a Nonredundant Role for Recognition of Streptococcus pyogenes. J Immunol. 2015 Aug 01; 195(3):1092-9.  View on PubMed
  17. Geyer M, Pelka K, Latz E. Synergistic activation of Toll-like receptor 8 by two RNA degradation products. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2015 Feb; 22(2):99-101.  View on PubMed
  18. Pelka K, Phulphagar K, Zimmermann J, Stahl R, Schmid-Burgk JL, Schmidt T, Spille JH, Labzin LI, Agrawal S, Kandimalla ER, Casanova JL, Hornung V, Marshak-Rothstein A, Höning S, Latz E. Cutting edge: the UNC93B1 tyrosine-based motif regulates trafficking and TLR responses via separate mechanisms. J Immunol. 2014 Oct 01; 193(7):3257-61.  View on PubMed
  19. Schmid-Burgk JL, Schmidt T, Gaidt MM, Pelka K, Latz E, Ebert TS, Hornung V. OutKnocker: a web tool for rapid and simple genotyping of designer nuclease edited cell lines. Genome Res. 2014 Oct; 24(10):1719-23.  View on PubMed
  20. Sirois CM, Jin T, Miller AL, Bertheloot D, Nakamura H, Horvath GL, Mian A, Jiang J, Schrum J, Bossaller L, Pelka K, Garbi N, Brewah Y, Tian J, Chang C, Chowdhury PS, Sims GP, Kolbeck R, Coyle AJ, Humbles AA, Xiao TS, Latz E. RAGE is a nucleic acid receptor that promotes inflammatory responses to DNA. J Exp Med. 2013 Oct 21; 210(11):2447-63.  View on PubMed

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