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USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology postdoctoral researcher and alumna Priya Rangan has received a three-year fellowship to study the possible links between bacteria in the gut and the efficacy of immunotherapy in prostate cancer.

The iCARE-2 Incoming Fellowship, funded by the Italian Association for Cancer Research and the European Union, welcomes non-Italian scientists interested in a research experience in a scientific institution in Italy. Rangan, who received her PhD in the Biology of Aging from USC in 2019, will be traveling to Milan, Italy, in February 2020 to begin research at Ospedale San Raffaele.

Her project will examine how changes to the populations of bacteria in the gut may shape how well immunotherapy, including adoptive T-cell therapy, treats prostate cancer. She hopes to find out whether manipulating the gut microbiome, including through dietary changes, antibiotics or radiation therapy, can influence treatment success.

“The microbiome can shape intestinal and systemic immunity. It can influence the host’s susceptibility to illness and sensitivity to the therapeutic (or toxic) effects of treatments,” Rangan explained. “Monitoring and manipulating the microbiota compositions or taking advantage of microbiota-derived factors represents new avenues of possible clinical translation.”

Rangan, who currently works in the laboratory of Edna M. Jones Professor of Gerontology and Professor of Biological Sciences Valter Longo, said she’s excited to begin her research on the other side of the globe.

“I feel that as a scientist in this day and age, it is important to gain research experience in diverse environments, especially when starting out in the field as a junior scientist,” Rangan said. “This fellowship is providing me with the opportunity to work in one of the top research hospitals in Italy and Europe, which would allow me to gain exposure to the clinical research field, something I hope can be the foundation of my research career going forward.”

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