Grants - V Scholar Grants - New Hampshire - 2021

Aaron McKenna, PhD

Volunteer Grant funded by the V Foundation Wine Celebration in honor of Fiorella O’Neill

Every tumor evolves from a single cell. This single cell divides to become two cells, those cells divide to become four cells, and so on, eventually creating the billions of cells that we see in a patient’s tumor. Along the way, individual cells evolve and mutate. As a result, when we look at the whole tumor, many cells look very different from each other. We often don’t know what causes these differences or which differences are important, but we know this diversity is responsible for the drug resistance seen in many patients.  

Our goal is to figure out how these differences come to be. The first step is to track the pattern of cell divisions that generate the tumor. The technology we’ve developed records the family relationship between all cells in a tumor. We combine this system with single cell sequencing in mice, mapping tumor development to understand how resistant populations evolve. These maps will allow researchers to design better treatments that target these pre-resistant populations, enhancing our current treatment options.