Ana is a MsC candidate at the Ashkar Laboratory. Ana completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry Co-op at McMaster University. She became highly fascinated about immunology during her thesis project at the McMaster Platelet Immunology Laboratory, where she worked on the development of an antigen capture assay for the diagnosis of Immune Thrombocytopenia. Her interest in immunology and biotechnology further grew during her tenure at STEMCELL Technologies, where she worked as a co-op student to develop and optimize immunomagnetic cell isolation kits.
Ana’s research focuses on utilizing genetically modified ex vivo expanded NK cells expressing chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) to more potently direct NK cell cytotoxicity against refractory tumours for the treatment of various solid malignancies. CARs consist of a single variable chain domain which bind to a defined target antigen on cancer cells, and an intracellular signaling domain which triggers effector cell activation. While there is extensive pre-clinical studies and successful clinical phase I/II studies with CAR expressing T cells against hematological malignancies, little is still known about the CAR-engineered NK cells. Using a combinatorial approach by targeting the tumour microenvironment and using CAR-NK cells targeting ligands for activating NK cells receptors may improve the efficacy of tumour specific NK cells.