Advancing Melanoma Treatment: Key Discoveries by UCLA’s Dr. Nataly Naser Al Deen

Melanoma Research is advancing through the Alan Ghitis Fellowship

Dr. Nataly Naser Al Deen, a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, used the 2023-2024 Ghitis Fellowship to study clinical trial patient tissues. Her goal is to understand why some melanomas respond to immunotherapy and others do not. She focuses on immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) therapies, which activate immune cells to fight tumors.

Immune Response analysis in Melanoma Patients

Dr. Naser Al Deen analyzed tumor samples from melanoma patients, collected before, during, and after treatment, to investigate cellular responses to ICB therapy. She used advanced spatial technologies to study gene activity at the single-cell level. Her findings show that tumors with more CD8 T cells, a type of immune cell, are more responsive to treatment. In contrast, non-responding tumors lack these immune cells around blood vessels near the tumor.

Cell Differentiation Study

Another part of her research examines how the maturity of melanoma cells affects their response to ICB therapy. She found that less differentiated tumors are usually more resistant, except in desmoplastic melanoma, which responds well to treatment despite being less differentiated. She presented these findings at several conferences and in publications.

Alan Ghitis Fellowship impact

Dr. Naser Al Deen has received numerous awards and recognitions for her work, including mentoring roles and research grants. Her research, supported by the Alan Ghitis Fellowship, has significantly advanced melanoma studies and contributed to training future cancer researchers. UCLA is grateful for the philanthropic support that makes this work possible.