Anesthesia and Sex Specific, Immune Dependent Impact on Cancer Progression
Associate Professor of Clinical Anesthesiology
University of California, San Diego
San Diego, CA
Since she entered academic medicine, Angela Meier, MD, PhD, has been passionate to understand “how things work” and learn about the immune system through its interaction with microbes. In 2016, as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Anesthesiology at University of California, San Diego (UCSD), this fascination led her to pursue a research study investigating potential sex differences in the impact of Isoflurane on in vivo melanoma growth, “Anesthesia and Sex Specific, Immune Dependent Impact on Cancer Progression,” which was subsequently funded by an IARS Mentored Research Award (IMRA). The support of the 2016 IMRA provided Dr. Meier with a pivotal step in her career as a junior faculty member, allowing her to pursue her research interests, safeguard lab time, and help her to transition and gain promotion in the advanced faculty track. Today, Dr. Meier is an Associate Professor of Clinical Anesthesiology at UCSD, a faculty series for clinician-investigators with leadership in academic medicine, and she continues her determination to find answers to the questions she first considered early in her career. The preliminary data from that IMRA-funded study allowed Dr. Meier to successfully apply for an NIH Mentored Clinician Scientist (KL-2) award. Building on that momentum, she stepped into the role of Co-Principal Investigator of a large NIH/NIAID R01 award (2023-28). While her initial IMRA-funded research concentrated on the immune system and cancer, her scientific path has now led her back to her previous research focus, host-pathogen interactions. Below, Dr. Meier shares how IMRA propelled her career as a clinician-scientist, the evolution of her research and her hopes for the future of anesthesia research.
1. What is your current position? How long have you been in this position? What was your role when you were first funded by IARS?
I currently hold the position of Associate Professor of Clinical Anesthesiology at the University of California, San Diego (a faculty series for clinician-investigators with leadership in academic medicine). I am board-certified in anesthesiology and critical care medicine, dividing my time between research and clinical work. When I was initially funded by IARS, I served as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Anesthesiology (a faculty series designed for those whose principal activities center on patient care). This award was pivotal as it allowed me to pursue my research interests, safeguard my lab time, and transition to and gain promotion in the advanced faculty track.
2. What was the goal of your initial research project? Was it met?
The primary aim of my initial project was to investigate potential sex differences in the impact of Isoflurane on in vivo melanoma growth. The results from this project were published in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia.
3. How did your findings impact patient care?
My studies were conducted in a mouse model, so they did not immediately impact patient care. However, they provided a foundation for further hypotheses.
4. Has your research subject area evolved since the award?
Yes, my research focus has evolved. While my IARS project initially concentrated on the immune system and cancer, my scientific path led me back to my previous research focus on host-pathogen interactions.
5. How did the award affect your research/professional trajectory?
The IARS research award provided me with protected time in the lab during the early stages of my career, leading to the generation of preliminary data that allowed me to successfully apply for an NIH mentored clinician scientist (KL-2) award. Building on that momentum, I am now the Co-Principal Investigator of a large NIH/NIAID R01 award (2023-28). In this program, I am investigating how novel nanotherapeutic drugs, including biomimetic macrophage membrane-coated nanoparticles, can potentially control pathological inflammation in ICU patients suffering ARDS or sepsis.
6. How do you feel about having received the IARS Mentored Research Award?
I am deeply grateful and honored to have received this award as it enabled me to continue my research at a premiere biomedical research institution — UCSD.
7. What would you like to convey to our donors, the people who made this award possible?
I would like to express my gratitude for their generosity. This award holds great significance for the field of anesthesiology. In a specialty where maximizing clinical efforts often carries significant financial rewards, research may not be as attractive for many young faculty and difficult for departments to incentivize. Yet, it is crucial that we continue to explore vital topics within and beyond our field to ensure the best possible patient care, both now and in the future. I sincerely hope this award can be sustained for future junior faculty in anesthesiology who are dedicated to advancing scientific progress.
8. What drew you to academic anesthesiology and to your particular area of research?
I have always been passionate about understanding “how things work” and learning about our immune system through its interaction with microbes. Anesthetics can influence our immune responses, which has the potential to impact human health and disease. As a practicing anesthesia critical care medicine physician, I remain intrigued by how our immune response influences outcomes in infection. I continue to dedicate my research efforts to exploring how we can modify the course of disease by influencing the immune response.
9. What do you hope for the future of anesthesia research?
I hope that our field can continue to support competitive research to best serve our patients in all aspects of their care.