Ana Anderson

Last week, we had the honor of hosting Dr. Ana Anderson as a McClintock lecturer. Dr. Anderson is a cancer immunologist and professor at Harvard working to figure out why immune systems don’t fight cancer and how we can get them to.

Each week, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) brings in world-class scientists from around the world to give seminars. WiSE gets to nominate and host two of these. We select female scientists who are leaders in their field and advocates for other female scientists to come give McClintock lectures (named for Barbara McClintock, who carried out her groundbreaking work on “jumping genes” at CSHL.

Anderson was born in Bogota, Colombia and raised in Florida, where she earned a B.S. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Miami. She then moved to Massachusetts, getting a Ph.D. in Immunology from Harvard, where she is now an Associate Professor of Neurology.

Earlier in her career, she focused on what happens when your immune system is too active, attacking your own healthy cells and leading to autoimmune diseases. Now, she studies what happens when your immune system isn’t active enough and fails to attack cancer cells. and how you can make it more active and get it to recognize cancer cells as foreign.

One of her lab’s most significant findings to date is that the T cells (a type of immune cell) in tumors often express more of a molecule called Tim-3 and this serves to prevent the immune system from attacking it. Now, she’s working to figure out how this process works and how we can intervene.

She also studies other ways cancer evades the immune system and she gave a seminar on “Using genomics to understand the CD8+ T cell landscape in cancer” in which she talked about her lab’s work on getting a genomic look inside the immune cells that should be fighting the cancer but aren’t.

In addition to getting to hear a great talk, WiSE-rs had the privilege of having dinner with Anderson and hearing how she managed to navigate academia as a single mother. Thank you so much Dr. Anderson!

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