Rajasekharan Somasundaram, Ph.D.

Rajasekharan Somasundaram, Ph.D.

  • Research Assistant Professor, Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program
  • 215-898-3960, office

Rajasekharan Somasundaram joined The Wistar Institute after receiving his doctoral training in Cancer Immunology at the Tata Cancer Center, University of Bombay, India. He received and his training in Tumor Immunology and Cancer Biology in the laboratories of Drs. Dorothee and Meenhard Herlyn at The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, PA.

Somasundaram’s earlier work was focused on T-cell immune responses and developing cancer vaccines for melanoma and colorectal carcinoma patients. Several important contributions were made during his work in Dorothee Herlyn’s laboratory. There are multiple reasons for the failure of cancer vaccines and their ability to restrict or eliminate tumor growth. Some of the plausible reasons of immune resistance at the tumor site are lack of robust infiltration of activated T-cells and/or turning off the functional activity of T-cells. Somasundaram’s current work is aimed at understanding the role of tumor microenvironment and immune resistance. In one such study, an important discovery was made on the role of tumor-infiltrating B cells in the induction of therapy resistance of cancer cells. This was mainly due to the secretion of inflammatory cytokines by tumor-infiltrating B cells resulting in melanoma heterogeneity and therapy resistance.

Ongoing work includes the establishment of a humanized mice model to understand immune therapy-related resistance, enhancing cancer vaccine potential using a combination of immunotherapy and targeted therapy drugs, and understanding the role of the inflammatory environment and the induction of melanoma heterogeneity. These studies are undertaken to develop new treatment strategies that can lead to long-lasting tumor regression in cancer patients. 

Selected Publications

1. Swoboda R*, Somasundaram R*, Gross L, Robbins P, Marincola FM, Herlyn M, Herlyn D. A peptide derived from an open reading frame transcribed from the reverse strand of the 3’ untranslated region of the tumor suppressor TRIT1 is recognized by anti-melanoma CTL. Mol Ther-Oncolytics. 2015.1, 14009; doi:10.1038/mto.2014.9
2. Menon DR, Das S, Krepler C, Vultur A, Rinner B, Schauer S, Kashofer K, Wagner K, Zhang G, Rad BE, Hass N, Soyer P, Gabrielli B, Somasundaram R, Hoefler G, Herlyn M, and Schaider H. A Stress Induced Early Innate Response Causes Multi-Drug Tolerance in Melanoma. Oncogene. 2014; doi: 10.1038/onc.2014.372, PMID: 25417704.
3. Somasundaram R, Facompre N, Herlyn M. Melanoma subpopulations with cancer stem cell phenotypes. In: Rajasekhar VK, ed. Cancer Stem Cells. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.; 2014:223-234.
4. Maurer M, Somasundaram R, Herlyn M, Wagner SN. Immunotargeting of tumor subpopulations in melanoma patients: a paradigm shift in therapy approaches. Oncoimmunol. 2012; 1:1454-1456. PMID: 23243627.
5. Somasundaram R, Villanueva J, Herlyn M. Intratumoral heterogeneity as a therapy resistance mechanism: role of melanoma subpopulations. Adv Pharmacol. 2012; 65:335-59. PMID: 22959031.
6. Villanueva J, Vultur A, Lee JT, Somasundaram R, Fukunaga-Kalabis M, Cipolla AK, Wubbenhorst B, Xu X, Gimotty PA, Kee D, Santiago-Walker AE, Letrero R, D'Andrea K, Pushparajan A, Hayden JE, Brown KD, Laquerre S, McArthur GA, Sosman JA, Nathanson KL, Herlyn M. Acquired Resistance to BRAF Inhibitors Mediated by a RAF Kinase Switch in Melanoma Can Be Overcome by Cotargeting MEK and IGF-1R/PI3K. Cancer Cell. 2010; 18(6):683-95. PMID: 21156289.
7. Somasundaram R, Herlyn D. Role of chemokines and chemokine receptors in neuroectodermal tumors. Sem Cancer Biol. 2009; 19:92-96. PMID: 19049876.
8. Swoboda R*, Somasundaram R*, Caputo-Gross L, Berencsi K, von Franzke P, Taylor DD, Marincola FM, Meropol N, Hoffman J, Sigurdson E, Miller E, Herlyn D. Nucleophosmin is recognized by a cytotoxic T cell line derived from a rectal carcinoma patient. Int J Cancer. 2010; 127:1124-1130. PMID: 20027629.
9. Somasundaram R, Swoboda R, Caputo L, Otvos L, Weber B, Volpe P, van Belle P, Hotz S, Elder DE, Marincola FM, Schuchter L, Guerry D, Czerniecki BJ, Herlyn D. HLA-A2-restricted CTL responses to mutated BRAF peptides in melanoma patients. Cancer Res. 2006; 66:3287-3293. PMID: 16540682.
10. Zhang T, Somasundaram R, Berencsi K, Caputo L, Rani P, Guerry D, Furth E, Rollins BJ, Putt M, Gimotty P, Swoboda R, Herlyn M, Herlyn D. CXC chemokine ligand 12 (stromal cell-derived factor 1 alpha) and CXCR4-dependent migration of CTLs toward melanoma cells in organotypic culture. J Immunol. 2005; 174:5856-5863. PMID: 15843590.

* joint first authors