Salk Institute for Biological Studies
CHEERS funds support groundbreaking research affecting women’s health, and by partnering with the Salk Women & Science Program is supporting a female scientist, Amy Rommel, PhD. Dr. Rommel is a wife, mother, mentor, adventurer, ocean lover and is changing the game on how we think about treating cancer. As a researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Inder Verma at the Salk Institute, Amy is focusing her efforts on one of the most lethal forms of cancer, Glioblastoma. Her research into how the “stem-cell-like” tumor overcomes therapeutic attacks by adapting, mutating, migrating and invading into other tissues has uncovered a mechanism by which the tumor has potentially cured itself, albeit currently in a small number of tumor cells, by adapting and transforming into a vascular (blood vessel) cell, a process known as transdifferentiation. If cancer is essentially a mass of stem cells growing out of control, then perhaps just as in a developing embryo, the cancer simply seeks programming to tell the cells what to do. This is what Dr. Rommel’s research aims to accomplish. Instead of simply trying to create a drug to kill the cancer, Dr. Rommel’s current work proposes a novel strategy to reprogram the stem-like, tumor cells back to “normal” non-tumor initiating cells. It is her hope that this treatment will not be toxic to the patient, have fewer side effects and most importantly, put an end to tumor adaptation, resistance and evasion of treatment.