• Project Title: Can a Community of Bacteria in Your Gut Affect Your Immune System’s Response to Cancer?

  • BASIS Advisor: Ms. Das

  • Internship Location: Angela Christiano's lab at the Dermatology Department of Columbia University Medical School

  • Onsite Mentor: Dr. Rolando Perez-Lorenzo

Interning with Dr. Rolando Perez-Lorenzo over the last two summers at Dr. Angela Christiano’s lab in the Department of Dermatology of Columbia University, I will continue my previous work on the leaky gut and alopecia areata but with a refined focus in melanoma. I will examine the correlation between tumor growth and permeability as well as immune response markers in the gut. How does the microbiome modulate immune checkpoint response? A certain degree of inflammation is needed in a normal and healthy gut microbiome because it modulates immune responses. However, if the inflammation is reduced, then the immune system’s responses will be systematically less effective. We know that there are essentially two extremes between which a balance must be struck. On the one hand, a less permeable, or closed, gut that has no inflammation will not call for an immune response, so it is associated with cancer formation. However, if the gut is open and has too much inflammation, this will lead to autoimmunity. Attempting to control gut permeability is therefore crucial and could be regulated by exposure to the microbiome. We are trying to determine what “bugs” in theory help the response to checkpoint inhibitors by giving these to restore checkpoint response and observe the resulting changes in gut barrier function and immune response. I will continue my work there while honing my investigative skills, and I hope that the opportunity afforded by my Senior Project will be used to procure new insight in the field of cancer research as well as serve as an impetus for my later specialization.