Alina Ulezko Antonova
Current advisor: Marco Colonna, MD
Undergraduate university: Emory University
This past summer I worked in the lab of Dr. Ting Wang. Broadly, Dr. Wang’s group is interested in studying gene regulation; specifically, how epigenetic therapy influences expression of both coding and non-coding genes. Using models of cancer-initiating stem cells of colon and ovarian cancer, it has been previously shown that inhibition of DNA methyltransferases results in the activation of a viral mimicry gene pathway, mainly characterized by the initiation of anti-tumor IFN responses. This phenomenon has not been investigated in other cancers with low mutational burden, such as glioblastoma (GBM), which would greatly benefit from epigenetic therapy because GBMs respond poorly to currently available treatments. The goal of my rotation project was to validate whether this immune pathway was also upregulated in human GBM stem cells following epigenetic treatment. I performed an in-depth computational analysis of bulk RNA sequencing of patient derived GBM stem cells treated with either DNA methyltransferase inhibitors or vehicle. Finally, I analyzed “The Cancer Genome Atlas” database to explore associations between upregulation of specific immune signatures and cancer outcomes.