2024 Snyderman Scholar Working on Small Cell Lung Cancer

By Susanne B. Haga, PhD


The Snyderman Scholars Applied Genomics & Precision Medicine Summer Program is supporting one student researcher this summer, Maia Kotelanski ’25.  This competitive 10-week program provides Duke University undergraduate students an opportunity to continue their research in applied genomics and precision medicine, with the generous support of Dr. Ralph Snyderman, James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Medicine and former Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine at Duke University.

Maia Kotelanski ’25

Maia is majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry and Religion.  She will be working in the laboratory of Ann Marie Pendergast, PhD, Anthony R. Means Cancer Biology Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, where she has worked since the Summer 2022.  Her project is titled “Characterizing Treatment-Induced Dysregulation of Metabolic Pathways in SCLC.”  SCLC stands for small cell lung cancer, an aggressive, highly metastatic form of lung cancer. Unlike non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), in which the identification of targetable drivers has led to the introduction of numerous targeted therapeutic approaches and a corresponding improvement in patient survival, SCLC lacks actionable driver mutations. The ABL kinases (ABL1/2) are non-receptor tyrosine kinases that play a key role in many cellular pathways including tumor progression and metastasis.  The Pendergast lab has observed that ABL is highly expressed in SCLC and that ABL inhibitors (ABLi) decrease tumor volume in a mouse metastatic xenograft model of SCLC.  This summer, Maia will be working to disentangle the mechanism of action of a potential combination-therapy utilizing ABL inhibitors in SCLC and characterize the metabolic dependencies of sensitive cell lines. 

“I’m grateful to Dr. Snyderman for giving me the chance to spend this summer fully dedicated to this project, allowing me to grow as a scientist. I feel so lucky to be a part of the Pendergast lab where I’m given the freedom, encouragement, and guidance to search for answers to so many questions raised by our research.”

A few weeks ago, Maia had the opportunity to attend the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology’s meeting in Chicago and gain insights on the latest advances in precision medicine in oncology.  Her attendance was thanks to generous support from the Undergraduate Research Support Office of her Bass Connections team’s ongoing research into religious coping and participation in patients with Head and Neck Cancer.

After graduating from Duke in May 2025, Maia plans to take a gap year before attending medical school, where she plans to pursue her goal of becoming a physician-scientist and eventually working at the forefront of innovation in oncology.  


Learn more about the Snyderman Scholars Applied Genomics & Precision Medicine program.