Lowell High School
Lowell, MA

Haley Curtis
Center for the Development of Therapeutics

Annamaria applied to BSSP in search of research opportunities. “I decided to apply to BSSP because I wanted an opportunity to experience what having a career in science could feel like along with seeing which fields of science interested me.” As part of BSSP, Annamaria worked in a group that studies novel druggable targets to increase the efficiency of cancer therapies. In order to promote their uncontrollable growth, survival and proliferations, cancer cells have developed different ways to hijack cellular pathways to avoid being cleared by the immune system. Some types of cancer hijack the interferon pathway, which when activated, sometimes leads to programmed cell death (apoptosis). Cancer cells hijack this pathway by overexpressing a protein called ADAR1, which acts to prevent apoptosis. Previous work found that inhibiting ADAR1 in mice helps reduce the size of tumors that had become unresponsive to cancer treatment. Thus, ADAR1 constitutes an attractive drug target for cancer therapies. Annamaria, with her partner Everianny, worked in a group that was interested in performing screens to find small molecule inhibitors of ADAR1 in lung cancer cells called A549 cells. To do this, Annamaria needed to confirm that A549 cells relied on the interferon pathway to undergo apoptosis. She set out to test this by generating cells depleted of different components of the interferon pathway and seeing how they would respond to pathway activation using high content imaging. Her data suggests A549 cells do have an active interferon pathway and can be used to identify a small molecule inhibitor of ADAR1. Through her work, Annamaria and Everianny will increase the efficiency of cancer therapies at clearing the tumor, thus helping millions of individuals affected by this disease. Annamaria’s favorite part about being a Broadie was the community. She notes that “during my time at the Broad I met many helpful and dedicated people that encouraged my interest in science.”