Humsa Venkatesh

Humsa Venkatesh

Assistant Professor
Humsa Venkatesh
Overview:
Our lab studies the reciprocal interactions between the central nervous system and brain cancers. Our work emphasizes the electrical components of glioma pathophysiology and highlights the extent to which the brain and its neurons can control and facilitate disease progression. The understanding of these co-opting mechanisms has led to novel strategies to broadly treat cancers, by disabling their ability to electrically integrate into neural circuitry. Our pioneering efforts in this emerging field of cancer neuroscience aims to harness the systems level microenvironmental dependencies of tumor growth to develop innovative therapeutic treatments.
 
Brain Metastases:
Brain metastases outnumber primary brain tumors by 10-fold and are on the rise. The "seed-and-soil" hypothesis suggests that as cancer cells spread, they acquire the ability to interact with the specific microenvironment of the host organ. We aim to understand the mechanisms through which these non-glial derived malignant cells interact with their microenvironment and clarify how metastatic cells engage with neurons within the supportive brain niche. We further aim to understand the mechanisms by which electrical inputs facilitate metastatic colonization.
 
Gliomas:
Brain cancers are one of the most common causes of cancer-related death and represent 120 molecularly distinct diseases. Despite advances in clarifying the genetic landscape of these cancers, they remain clinically intractable, underscoring the need to elucidate the complex cell-extrinsic factors contributing to their phenotypic heterogeneity. Studies focusing on the tumor microenvironment have clarified growth promoting roles of microglia, astrocytes, and blood vessels. Yet, the role of the nervous system has been largely unexplored. We apply classical and systems neuroscience techniques to understand the dynamic neural circuits acting in concert to orchestrate malignant disease progression. Our work thus far highlights the potential to target bidirectional neuron-glioma communication and network dynamics for therapy and further aims to understand the spatiotemporal dynamics of these circuits throughout tumor development.

Contact Information

60 Fenwood Rd, Room 7006
Boston, MA 02115
p: 617-525-5212

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