The Sentinel

THE OFFICIAL BLOG OF THE SOCIETY FOR IMMUNOTHERAPY OF CANCER (SITC).

Get to Know Sentinel Author: Aliyah Weinstein


Name: Aliyah Weinstein
Weinstein

Title: Graduate Student Researcher

Employer: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

When and why did you become a SITC member?

I’ve been a SITC member since this summer, though I previously attended some satellite events organized by the society. As I am thinking ahead to a career in the field of cancer immunotherapy, it only made sense to join SITC to establish a stronger connection with the field and grow my network.

Can you briefly explain the work you are doing in the field?

My current research focuses on the promotion of tertiary lymphoid organogenesis in the tumor microenvironment. We recently published that the cytokine IL-36 gamma can promote the formation of these structures when introduced therapeutically into tumor-bearing mice, and I am currently following up on these results in both human and mouse models of colorectal cancer.

Who or what inspired you to choose this specific career path?

I have been interested in pursuing a career in cancer research since high school. On the other hand, I had no sense of the field of immunology until my senior year of college, when a series of unexpected circumstances forced me to switch labs; I suddenly found myself analyzing the humoral response to immunotherapy instead of the signaling biology I was used to. Despite the surprise of ending up in the field of cancer immunotherapy, I enjoyed the thought puzzle that the immune system still posed within the realm of cancer biology, and decided from there to pursue my PhD in cancer immunology.

What are some of the biggest challenges you are facing in the field?

I think the biggest challenge in cancer immunotherapy currently is understanding how genetic differences in patients’ tumors and immune cells affect their response to therapy. Now that immunotherapy has shown success in some patients, I think the next big strides in the field will come when we can understand why those patients respond while others do not.

What activities are you involved with outside of the lab?

During my time in grad school, I’ve had the privilege of leading several student organizations on the University of Pittsburgh campus. I also have been involved with the University administration, serving on committees including Educational Policies and the University Council on Graduate Studies. Off campus, I am on the administrative team of Letters to a Pre-Scientist, which encourages students from underserved communities to pursue STEM careers. I also enjoy studying languages, baking, and writing.

What topic(s) do you plan to write about for The Sentinel, SITC’s new blog?

I’m looking forward to covering colon cancer biology, as well as basic research advances in immune cell circulation through the tumor microenvironment.

What do you hope readers will gain from this new blog?

I hope that readers will use the blog as a source of information on aspects of cancer immunotherapy that may not be directly related to their work. This field is so dynamic, with new discoveries being published almost every day. I would hope that this blog becomes a source of collating and summarizing advances in basic and clinical cancer immunology research, and that it sparks a sense of excitement such that visitors of all scientific backgrounds can appreciate the excitement of this field!

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