Graduate School of Medical Sciences
A partnership with the Sloan Kettering Institute

2023 PhRMA Foundation Fellowship in Drug Discovery

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Aakanksha Rajiv Kapoor | PhRMA Foundation Fellowship in Drug Discovery, awarded January 2023 | BCMB
Allied PhD Program | Mentored by Vivek Mittal at Weill Cornell Medicine | “Determine Mechanisms by Which
Club Cell Secreted Proteins Inhibit Myeloid-derived Suppressor Cells to Increase Efficacy of Immunotherapy in
Lung Cancer

Tell us about your research.
My research focuses on how certain proteins secreted by epithelial cells in the lungs, known as club cells, can
help enhance anti-tumor immunity. Specifically, I'm interested in figuring out how these proteins can inhibit
certain immunosuppressive cells in the tumor microenvironment, like Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells. These
immunosuppressive cells hinder other immune cells like T cells and NK cells and promote tumor progression.
By understanding how secreted proteins from club cells can specifically target Myeloid-Derived Suppressor
Cells, we can improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy in treating lung cancer.

What are your motivations behind choosing your area of research?
I was motivated to pursue this research area due to its translational potential, as it has the capability to greatly
impact and enhance the effectiveness of immunotherapy. Moreover, it provides me with an opportunity to delve
into the intricate biological processes that underlie the progression of diseases. This field allows me to merge
my passion for science and biology with the desire to make a meaningful difference by driving discoveries and
developing new therapies.

Why did you choose Weill Cornell Graduate School for your graduate studies?
The collaborative atmosphere within Weill Cornell, as well as its connections with neighboring institutes like
MSKCC and Rockefeller University, left a strong impression on me. The availability of multidisciplinary
opportunities enabled me to delve into diverse research areas and find my true interests. Opting for WCGS
provided me with a solid platform for building a remarkable scientific foundation.

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