As part of the College’s Summer Research Program, rising junior Yonathan Ararso has been collaborating with Dr. Kristian Hargadon to investigate the production of immunosuppressive factors by melanoma cells and to study the influence of these factors on the activity of dendritic cells, a group of cells responsible for the induction of immune responses. Previous work in Dr. Hargadon’s laboratory has established that melanoma tumor cells suppress the function of dendritic cells, and such dysfunction is likely to have severe consequences for the induction and maintenace of a variety of other anti-tumor immune responders. Funded by a Summer Undergraduate Researc Fellowship from the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, Yonathan is using a variety of cutting-edge techniques that include real time RT-PCR, ELISA, and flow cytometry to identifying a number of melanoma-derived molecules with known immunosuppressive function. He is also testing the effects of these molecules on tumor-associated suppression of dendritic cell activity through antibody blockade experiments. These experiments are designed to individually assess the role of each candidate tumor-derived factor in the suppression of dendritic cell function. Using this approach to gain insights into the mechanism of tumor-induced suppression of dendritic cells may potentially identify tumor-derived molecules that could serve as targets for immunotherapies designed to enhance the immune response to melanoma, the most aggressive and deadliest form of skin cancer.