Sara Abdel Malak
In patients with Myelopoliferative Neoplasms (MPN), which can transform to secondary Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), specific genetic mutations in Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) and calreticulin (CALR) have been identified. These mutations affect stem cells, causing them to produce an abnormal number of progenitors. CALR mutations create new protein structures, called neoantigens, which could be promising targets for vaccines. However, patients carrying the CALR mutations are surprisingly tolerant to these changes, and thus a major medical need is to break this tolerance and reject the malignant stem cells. To address this challenge, my project focuses on developing cancer vaccines to treat MPN driven by CALR mutations.
I earned a Premedical Bachelor's degree in Biology from the American University of Beirut. Following that, I pursued the competitive Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in Vaccinology across five European universities: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Universitat de Barcelona, Universiteit Antwerpen, Université Jean Monnet, and Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1. During this program, I specialised in advanced immunology, infectiology, and vaccine legislation while collaborating with various industry partners, and receiving funding from Sanofi. For my master's thesis, I conducted research in the Van den Eynde lab on the combination of adoptive T cell transfer and viral vector-based cancer vaccination for the treatment of solid tumours in preclinical models.