Thomas webAssistant Professor Carissa M Thomas, M.D., Ph.D., received the 2020 American Head and Neck Society/American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Young Investigator Combined Award from the Centralized Otolaryngology Research Effort (CORE). 

Thomas received $40,000 for two years for her proposal on “Understanding Oral Cavity Microbiome and Tumor Microenvironment Cross-Talk.”

The award is to support a collaborative AHNS/AAO-HNSF research project by fostering the development of contemporary basic or clinical research skills focused disease of the head and neck among new academic head and neck surgeons.

Thomas’s research will look at how cancer changes the composition of the oral cavity microbiome and how bacteria communicate with immune cells in the tumor microenvironment. The grant will allow Thomas to establish a Microbiome Biobank for oral cavity cancer as well as a model system using patient-derived tumor cells, patient-derived immune cells, and bacteria in a 3D model or “organoid.” The goal of her research is to use bacteria to predict and improve response to different treatments for oral cavity cancer.