Researcher Spotlight: Wendy Béguelin, PhD
WEILL MEDICAL COLLEGE OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY
Follicular lymphoma (FL) is a clinically heterogenous disease. For some patients, tumors are slow growing and outcomes are favorable; others experience a high-risk, rapidly progressing disease that is associated with poor outcomes. Current prognostic tools, which utilize clinical information, tumor mutations, and gene expression data to predict disease risks, have low accuracy. The overarching goal of Dr. Béguelin’s research is, therefore, to better understand the process of FL progression to help predict the clinical course of FL tumors.
To this end, Dr. Béguelin is working to identify and characterize the cells that give rise to FL tumors. She is intrigued by research that suggests the persistence of a population of precursor cells that are present at all stages of FL – from diagnosis through relapse or transformation. “The persistence of this ancestral population through the patient’s clinical journey implies that it is difficult to eradicate completely with conventional treatment and most likely contributes to the relapsing-remitting nature of FL,” Dr. Béguelin explains. By understanding the features of these cells and how they change as the disease progresses, she hopes to identify new ways to target these cells and treat FL across all stages of disease.
After earning her PhD from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina, Dr. Béguelin completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, NY, where she now serves as an Assistant Professor. Using single-cell techniques, her LRF research aims to characterize the epigenetics, or non-DNA-based regulators of gene expression, of FL precursor cells. Mutations in genes that encode epigenetic regulators are common in FL, leading her to reason that these processes likely play important roles in disease formation and progression. Dr. Béguelin hopes that a better understanding of the epigenetic features of precursor cells will inform the development of new immunotherapies for FL that can be tested in clinical trials.