A/Professor Ashani Weeraratna
Dr. Weeraratna is the Ira Brind Professor and CoProgram Leader, Immunology, Microenvironment & Metastasis Program Member at the Wistar Institute. Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Southern Africa, Weeraratna first came to the United States in 1988 to study biology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She earned a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Oncology at the Department of Pharmacology of George Washington University Medical Center. From 1998 to 2000, she was a post-doctoral fellow at The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, before joining the National Human Genome Research Institute as a staff scientist. In 2003, she moved to the National Institute on Aging, where she started her own research program. Weeraratna joined The Wistar Institute in 2011. Dr. Weeraratna is an expert in melanoma metastasis, Wnt signaling, and aging, and her research focuses heavily on the effects of the tumor microenvironment on metastasis and therapy resistance. She has published over 100 scientific articles, including in top journals including Nature, Cancer Cell and Cancer Discovery. Her efforts provide insight into the mechanistic underpinnings of melanoma metastasis, therapy resistance and the influences of the tumor microenvironment.
Her primary research focus is on melanoma and how changes in the tumor cell’s microenvironment, which include changes in normal cells, blood vessels, and secreted molecules might initiate the disease’s spread to other parts of the body and also make it resistant to treatment. She is specifically interested in how age-related changes drive the progression of cancer.
Through speaking engagements and social media, Dr. Weeraratna diligently promotes skin safety, from urging proper sunscreen use to regular mole checks, as well as the dangers of indoor tanning. She is also a fierce champion of and a mentor for women in science and girls pursuing a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.