Researcher Spotlight: Laurianne Scourzic, PhD

Joan & Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University

Many B-cell lymphoma patients are resistant to, or relapse after, treatment. While researchers have demonstrated the causal role of cancer stem cells in the relapsing nature of the tumor, the existence of B-cells capable of repopulating the disease after treatment is unclear. Dr. Scourzic’s LRF grant project aims to identify and characterize lymphoma stem-like populations that can be targeted by the combination of existing or new therapeutic strategies. “These stemness features, restricted to specific normal B-cell populations, are magnified upon specific mutations in patients and characterized by a high expression of stem cell genes,” Dr. Scourzic explains.  “We reasoned that they could also serve as a biomarker for the relapse and help such patients at risk to receive specific treatments accordingly.” 

Dr. Scourzic completed her PhD at Gustave Roussy, where she dove into the study of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and T-cell lymphomas. She realized that, in most cases, a relatively high proportion of patients are prone to relapse despite the existence of effective treatment. “I hypothesized for my project that a subgroup of tumoral cells would behave like stem cells and be responsible for the lymphoma resurgence,” she explains. Her long-standing interest in understanding mechanisms driving cell-fate changes leading to lymphoma is why she continues in the field of clinical research.

Dr. Scourzic’s career goal is to become an independent researcher in academia and mentor the next generation of researchers. “I am amazed by the recent research and clinical developments in immunotherapy as well as studies investigating the microenvironment of B-cell lymphomas,” she says. “Similarly to solid tumor organization, blood cancer cells are constantly interacting with normal cells and constituent within their niche. Understanding how they communicate and sustain each other is primordial to eradicate lymphoma cells.”