Role Of Phagocytosis In The Treatment Of Brain Tumors


by : 
Aarti M.


Lack of knowledge of underlying biology and effective treatments for brain tumors, remains an unmet medical need. Recent reports suggest that phagocytosis, in which a type of immune cells, called macrophages, engulf foreign bodies, may have a role in treating brain tumors. The objectives of this project were to grow brain tumor cell lines and establish the optimal growth conditions; and then to study the role of phagocytosis in the treatment of gliomas. Oligodendroglioma (BT142) (unsorted) and Medulloblastoma (MB002) cell lines (unsorted & sorted) were thawed and plated to grow in Oligodendroglioma media. Cells were checked regularly under a microscope to monitor for cell growth, and under a fluorescent microscope for cell viability. The BT142 cell line initially grew (#2 days) and small clusters formed, but then by day 10 it stopped growing and cells started to die by day 16. For the MB002 unsorted cell line, the number of cells increased from 0-4 days, but stopped growing and cells died from 4-6 days. On the other hand, MB002, the sorted cell line enriched for tumor cells, consistently grew and had to be split. The data generated so far has established the optimal growth conditions for oligodendroglioma and medulloblastoma brain tumor cells lines. The observation that the sorted cell line grew while the unsorted did not is likely due to the higher percentage of tumor cells. In the future, different cell populations will be labeled to conduct a phagocytosis assay.

Personal Statement

Coming from a family of cancer researchers, my mother being a cancer specialist, and my father a basic scientist, both professors at Stanford University, I was exposed to medicine from a young age and developed an interest in the field of biological sciences. Over the years, I have actively sought out opportunities to further my interests. In middle school I was the treasurer of a student-run club called Students United Against Cancer, which helped children suffering from cancer. In 2018, I was selected to attend a program called Stanford EXPLORE Lecture Series, dedicated to exposing high school students to various disciplines of medicine. This experience further ignited my interest in medicine and the following year, I was accepted to a program called Stanford Science, Technology, and Medicine, where we learned about practicing in the clinic. That same summer, I was fortunate to be selected as a student intern in the laboratory of Irving L. Weissman, a pioneer in the field of stem cell research, and Director of the Stanford Institute of Regenerative Medicine, Stanford University. Joining AAR allowed me to continue working in the laboratory throughout the school year. In the laboratory, I worked with the neural stem cell team, assisting my mentors (MD, PhD students) in their projects related to understanding the biology underlying growth of neural stem cells and glioblastoma multiforme (a type of aggressive brain tumor). I learnt basic lab techniques, performing flow cytometry and conducting tissue culture experiments. I developed a research project to study immune responses to tumors and using the immune system to target tumor cells. One of the processes that the immune system uses to protect us from bacterial and viral infections is called ‘phagocytosis.’ Phagocytosis (ancient Greek, phagein means “to devour,” kytos means “cell,” and osis means “process”) is a biological process in which a type of immune cells, called macrophages, engulf foreign bodies such as bacteria and viruses. The objectives of this project are to grow brain tumor cell lines, establish the optimal growth conditions, and then to study the role of phagocytosis in the treatment of gliomas. AAR gave me the opportunity to work in a laboratory, which has helped to crystallize my interest in medicine, and made me understand the tremendous importance and impact of research on health outcomes.