Sri Lanka-born researcher appointed to U.S. National Cancer Advisory Board

Sri Lanka-born researcher appointed to U.S. National Cancer Advisory Board

September 18, 2021   11:12 am

A leading Johns Hopkins cancer researcher Dr. Ashani Weeraratna, who is of Sri Lankan origin, has been appointed by U.S. President Joe Biden to serve as a member of the National Cancer Advisory Board.

The White House announced the appointment on Wednesday.

Dr. Weeraeatna, who specializes in melanoma and the effects of aging on cancer, is the E.V. McCollum Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor.

She also serves as the co-leader of the Cancer Invasion and Metastasis Program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, and a professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She had joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2019.

According to John Hopkins University statement, Dr. Weeraratna’s research focuses on the effects of the tumor microenvironment—the normal cells and structures surrounding a tumor—on metastasis and therapy resistance.

She is one of the first researchers to study how the aging microenvironment influences metastasis and therapy resistance in melanoma.

Her studies encompass biophysical changes that affect the ability of both tumor and immune cells to migrate through tissues. Her research has found age-related differences in responses to both targeted therapy and immunotherapy, findings that may one day inform clinical practice.

Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Lesotho in Africa, Dr. Weeraratna first came to the United States in 1988 to study biology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She earned a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Oncology at the Department of Pharmacology of George Washington University Medical Center.

She is President of the Society for Melanoma Research, and a fierce champion of and a mentor for junior faculty, people of color and women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

-with inputs from agencies

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