My research in the Quaranta Lab focuses on identifying the sources of tumor recurrence in BRAF-mutant melanoma. Using ideas from evolution and ecology, I examine the contributions from clonal subpopulations within a tumor to the overall cell population response in drug. My goal is to identify and characterize clonal cancer cell populations based on proliferation and molecular profiling. To achieve this goal, I use a combination of mathematical modeling, bioinformatics, and cell proliferation assays for various melanoma cell lines in response to drugs to identify novel drug treatment strategies.
My clinical mentor is Dr. Doug Johnson, a melanoma oncologist who leads the melanoma clinical research program at Vanderbilt. In addition to advising patients and leading clinical trials, Dr. Johnson actively researches methods to profile cancers in order to predict patient response to different drug treatments. I plan to use his clinical expertise on molecular and mutational profiling to identify novel treatment approaches and simulate the range of potential patient responses to treatment. In addition, I hope to use clinical samples acquired in the clinic to add a translational aspect to my research and substantiate conclusions made in simulations and cancer cell lines.