Studying the tumor microenvironment under pressure
Immuno-Oncology Insights 2022; 3(9), 367–372
Published: 24 August 2022
Meenal Datta is an assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. Prof Datta received her PhD in Chemical and Biological Engineering from Tufts University in 2018, after which she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Her research focuses on deciphering the atypical tumor microenvironment that drives disease progression and treatment resistance in incurable cancers. By understanding and overcoming the biological, chemical, electrical, and mechanical abnormalities found in solid tumors, new therapeutic approaches can be discovered. Prof. Datta specializes in multidisciplinary and mechanism-based preclinical research that has the potential to be rapidly translated to improve treatment approaches in the clinic. She has spent her time as a researcher deciphering and reprogramming abnormal tissue microenvironments that present in a variety of diseases ranging from virulent tuberculosis to benign schwannoma to deadly glioblastoma that, surprisingly, share unifying features: abnormal blood vessels, abundant extracellular matrix, immunosuppression, and mechanopathologies. During her PhD, Dr Datta normalized the aberrant blood vasculature found in pulmonary tuberculosis granulomas to improve drug delivery. In her postdoctoral training, Dr Datta re-engineered the immunosuppressive brain tumor microenvironment to improve glioblastoma response to immunotherapy. As the director of the Tumor Immune Microenvironment & Mechanics Lab at Notre Dame (the TIME lab). Prof Datta’s research group is applying engineering fundamentals and problem-solving approaches to explore mechano-immunological phenomena in the tumor microenvironment and discover novel biophysical targets of interest.