The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Cancer Systems Imaging
Phenotypic plasticity entails the ability of cells of the same genetic background to visit certain states under various stress stimuli. My lab’s research interests lie in the field of understanding, characterizing and mapping phenotypic plasticity and heterogeneity of cell types within the tumor microenvironment at the single-cell level. These states may be transient in nature, thus equipping the cells with relatively fast ways to adapt, withstand and survive therapy conditions. Although phenotypic plasticity has recently gained increased attention in cancer research, it is poorly understood and defined at the single-cell proteomic level. More importantly, its clinical relevance remains largely unknown and heavily debated.
The Karacosta lab focuses on poorly characterized processes such as epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and senescence and aims to dissect how cell plasticity specifically drives the dynamics of drug resistance, therapy response and subsequent disease progression in the tumor microenvironment as a whole. By leveraging cancer systems biology approaches and single-cell technologies like mass cytometry (CyTOF), multiplexed imaging, live imaging and computational tools, we aim to interrogate the complex biology and spatiotemporal dynamics of therapy resistance in various cancer systems such as: cell lines, organoids, in vivo mouse models and longitudinal clinical specimens. The overall goal is to utilize innovative approaches of cancer systems biology to develop tools at the translational forefront of cancer systems research, towards predicting and counteracting mechanisms of drug resistance and evaluating – at a personalized level – disease status and response to treatment in cancer patients.
Education & Training
PhD, University at Buffalo, SUNY, 2013