The Alan Ghitis Association donates an additional $100,000 to UCLA for a melanoma research project

We are very happy to announce a new donation from the Alan Ghitis Association to Dr. Antoni Ribas’ laboratory at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. The funds will be used to finance the research of Dr. Nataly Naser Al Deen that focuses on overcoming resistance to immunotherapy treatment for people with melanoma skin cancer.

A successful team

Dr. Nataly Naser Al Deen has received multiple awards and scholarships, has written or contributed to 18 published and submitted manuscripts, including a book chapter, and has had more than 10 abstracts accepted by international conferences. Her scientific contribution and social entrepreneurship work earned her a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Middle East List in 2020.

Dr. Nataly Naser Al Deen is supervised by Prof. Antoni Ribas, a renowned physician-scientist who served as President-Elect for the American Association for Cancer Research in 2020-2021. We have full trust in both of them and are very excited to pursue this collaboration.

While pursuing my master’s degree at Georgetown University in Tumor Biology, my cousin got diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30, which made my research journey even more personal.

Dr. Nataly Naser Al Deen

An early calling for cancer research

We asked Nataly what motivated her to pursue the cancer research path, as we know motivation and resilience is crucial in such a complex line of work. Here is what she answered:

As a kid, I was always fascinated by all the medical books in different languages that my mother (a midwife) and her two brothers (a neuro-surgeon and a medical lab doctor) had at my grandparent’s library.

As an undergrad perusing pre-med, I took an elective course in oncology at the pediatric cancer hospital in Egypt, and I then knew that cancer research was my calling. During pursuing my master’s degree at Georgetown University in Tumor Biology, my cousin got diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30, which made my research journey even more personal.

Since then, other close family members have been diagnosed with cancer, but fortunately enough and through the power of awareness, we were able to detect these tumors at a very early stage. This is what I aspire to offer through our research and knowledge to my closer and larger community; to help spread awareness and offer scientific knowledge and the tools for early detection, prevention, and effective treatment.”

We are so grateful to have Dr. Nataly Naser Al Deen working on this project, as when is fully aligned with our approach as well. We know that for melanoma skin cancer, prevention is key. This research, however, will focus on treatment.

Overcoming resistance to immunotherapy for patients with melanoma

They will focus on patients who acquired resistance to the anti-PD-1 immunotherapy treatment. This will be achieved by diving deep into the genomic sequencing profiles of these patients’ tumor biopsies and comparing them to normal adjacent tissues and to other responder patients that received the same therapy. By further utilizing new spatial transcriptomic techniques, they will be able to understand from a tissue section, the spatial relationship and communication between the tumor cells, immune cells, and their neighboring cells at a single cell level. All this will help them understand the molecular mechanisms that might be driving this resistance to treatment.

One step closer to a treatment for advanced melanoma cancer patients rejecting immunotherapy

Clinical research like this represents a vital step in finding a cure for melanoma skin cancer patients for whom the available treatments either do not work at all or are effective only for a limited period of time. This is the ultimate goal of the Ribas laboratory, which is helped immensely by your support.