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Tal Yardeni, PhD

Tal Yardeni, PhD

Grant Status

Chaim Sheba Medical Center

Grant Type
Research Career Development Award

Project Title
Mitochondrial Augmentation into TILs as a Novel Approach For Melanoma Treatment

Tumor Types

Research Topics
Immunology and Immunotherapy, Melanoma, Skin Cancer

About the Investigator:

Dr. Yardeni is an expert in the field of mitochondrial genetics and function. Her research focuses on regulating mitochondrial haplotypes (a physical grouping of genomic variants that tend to be inherited together) on immune function and tumorigenesis. She received her PhD from the laboratory of Dr. William Gahl, NHGRI/NIH, in collaboration with Tel Aviv University. Then, Dr. Yardeni trained as a post-doctoral fellow at Prof. Douglas Wallace’s lab, a mitochondrial genetics pioneer at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Following her fellowship, she returned to Israel and established the Mitochondrial Research Lab at SMC.

About the Research:

Currently, treatment options for melanoma are limited , with low response rates. Strategies that could improve patients’response ratesto treatment would have essential impacts on improving survival. Dr. Yardeni`s proposal suggests a new approach, focusing on a further aspect of immunity and tumor progression — the “powerhouse of the cell” — the mitochondria. Mitochondria have their own DNA, and just like our regular DNA, they can have mutations that affect how our body fights diseases. Dr. Yardeni proposes to use this information to develop a novel way to boost our immune system to fight cancer.

As humans evolved, their mitochondrial DNA accumulated different variations that were helpful in various geographical regions. These beneficial changes are called adaptive mutations and are found in specific groups of mitochondrial haplotypes, known as haplogroups. Some of these haplogroups have been linked to different types of cancer, which means that targeting a person’s haplogroup could improve their immune function and help with precision therapy.

Dr. Yardeni’s preliminary research on mice shows that mitochondrial haplotype affects how melanoma (a type of skin cancer) progresses by affecting the immune system cells. Therefore, Dr. Yardeni aims to improve treatment for melanoma patients by taking immune cells called Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TILs) from patients, augmenting different mitochondrial haplogroups to make them more robust, and then putting them back into the patients. If successful, the treatment could apply to various malignancies.

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