Zooming in on the signals of cancer

This year, about 240,000 people in the U.S. will discover they have lung cancer. Some 200,000 of them will be diagnosed with non-small-cell lung cancer, which is the second leading cause of death after cardiovascular disease.

Georgia Tech researcher Ahmet Coskun is working to improve the odds for these patients in two recently published studies that are essentially focused on understanding why and how patients respond differently to disease and treatments.

“What we have learned is connectivity and communication between molecules and between cells is what really controls everything, regarding whether or not patients get healthy, or how they will respond to drugs,” said Coskun, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Published in the journals npj Precision Oncology and iScience, the studies detail the development of tools and techniques to deeply explore the tumor microenvironment at the subcellular level, utilizing the Coskun lab’s expertise in combining multiplex cellular imaging methods with artificial intelligence.

“We are developing a better grasp of cellular signaling and decision making, and how it is coordinated in the tumor microenvironment, which can lead to better personalized, precision treatments for these patients,” said Coskun, who is keenly interested in why some patients respond to groundbreaking immunotherapy drugs, and some don’t.

With that in mind, his team developed SpatialVizScore, a new method they describe in npj Precision Oncology, to deeply study tumor immunology in cancer tissues and help identify which patients are more likely to respond to an immunotherapy. It’s a significant upgrade to the current standard methodology used by cancer physicians and researchers, Immunoscore.

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