Ashani Weeraratna, PhD
The Wistar Institute, an international leader in cancer, immunology and infectious diseases research, is pleased to announce that Ashani Weeraratna, PhD, associate professor and program leader in the Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program, has been named the Ira Brind Associate Professor. A leader in the field of melanoma, she is also a member of Wistar’s Melanoma Research Center, one of the largest of its kind outside the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The endowed professorship was created by Ira Brind, former chair of Wistar’s Board of Trustees and a member of the Board since 1987, and is awarded to a scientist at the associate professor level who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and great scientific promise.
“Dr. Weeraratna has demonstrated outstanding scientific initiative and is a great ambassador for our Institute,” said Dario C. Altieri, M.D., president and CEO of The Wistar Institute, director of The Wistar Institute Cancer Center, and the Robert and Penny Fox Distinguished Professor. “She is changing the way we understand melanoma, as she and her team seek ways to prevent and treat this dangerous disease. Under her leadership, we look forward to continued innovation and growth during these exciting times of research expansion at Wistar.”
Weeraratna’s primary research focus is how melanoma metastasizes, or spreads, and how changes in the tumor microenvironment – including normal cells, blood vessels, and secreted molecules – might initiate the disease’s spread to other parts of the body and also make it resistant to treatment. These changes may be induced by chemotherapy, radiation, or “natural” alterations such as oxygen deficiency and aging. For example, melanoma incidence is higher in elderly individuals whose poor prognosis could be due to a number of age-related factors, like decreased immunity, but also by changes in the aging microenvironment. Using melanoma cells and both young and old normal skin cells as a model, Weeraratna is trying to unravel just what these changes may be and how they affect tumor progression.