OCT 06, 2016 10:30 AM PDT

Decoding human tumors and healthy tissue with mass cytometry

  • Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology Scientific Director of the Cancer & Immunology Core and the Mass Cytometry Center of Excellence
      Dr. Irish is Assistant Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University. His lab studies how signaling controls cell identity in healthy human tissues and in diseases, including cancer and immune disorders. His approach emphasizes combined use of bench and computational single-cell techniques. Dr. Irish trained at Stanford University with Dr. Garry Nolan, MD, PhD, and Dr. Ronald Levy, MD, for his PhD and postdoc, respectively. His PhD thesis work created a new single-cell phospho-specific flow cytometry approach and applied it to stratify leukemia patient clinical risks. He also developed the quantitative framework for phospho-flow and wrote the first lines of code for the Cytobank cloud computing platform. As a postdoc, Dr. Irish adapted single-cell tools for lymphoma precision medicine and revealed a new negative prognostic lymphoma cell type defined by abnormal B cell signaling mechanisms. In his independent lab at Vanderbilt, Dr. Irish has focused on adapting the immunologist's toolkit and single-cell snapshot proteomics for human solid tissues and tumors, including melanoma, lung cancer and brain cancer. In the last five years, the lab has authored >40 peer-reviewed manuscripts dissecting cancer and immune cell signaling interactions and created machine learning tools to quantify cell identity.


    New generations of treatments successfully target cancer cell signaling and modulate anti-cancer immunity to improve outcomes for advanced-stage malignancies. Such clinical responses are governed by an evolving milieu of cancer, immune, and stromal cell subpopulations. Mass cytometry is particularly well-suited to track cells in complex tissues because 35-plus measurements can be made on each of hundreds of thousands of cells per sample. This talk will focus on mass cytometry as an example of systems-level characterization of cells in healthy human tissues and solid tumors. The state of the art in single-cell cancer biology will be discussed, including tissue collection, technical and biological quality controls, analysis of cell signaling (phospho-flow) and computational analysis. Mass cytometry holds great promise for dissecting cellular microenvironments, monitoring treatment impact, revealing cellular biomarkers and effector mechanisms and creating new treatments that productively engage the immune system.

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