Dr. Ajit Johnson Nirmal is a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Peter Sorger and Dr. David Weinstock at the Harvard Medical School and Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Nirmal studies the role of tumor microenvironment in tumor development and drug resistance. By computational integration of highly multiplexed imaging data with omics data, Dr. Nirmal aims to decipher regulatory circuits that underlie cancer development and drug resistance, with a goal of building dynamic personalized medicine frameworks that will generate clinically actionable therapeutic insights for individual patients.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can be cured if caught early but can be life-threatening if it spreads. In this study, we used a combination of imaging and sequencing technology to study how melanoma interacts with its microenvironment. We found that the organization of cancer cells, immune cells, and other cells in the body changes as melanoma progresses. In early stages, there are signs that the immune system is being suppressed. When melanoma becomes invasive, specific areas form where the immune system is suppressed, and cancer cells can grow and spread. However, a short distance away, there are also areas where the immune system fights cancer. This shows that cancer and the immune system can coexist and evolve together. This type of study helps understand how cancer can avoid being destroyed by the immune system.