Understanding Immune Hubs to Improve Immunotherapy

Our Research

Our lab studies the cellular interactions that shape immune responses in human tumors, focusing on how these responses are regulated. Using a combination of large-scale genomic analyses and tissue imaging approaches, we have identified hubs in tumor tissues where tumor cells come into close contact with immune cells. By characterizing the cells in these hubs, and the gene networks that are turned on in these cells, our lab aims to uncover novel ways to harness the immune system in the fight against cancer.

Our Partners

Our People

We are a brand new lab located at the Gladstone Institutes in sunny Mission Bay looking for passionate students and postdoctoral fellows to join us in our mission to decode the cellular interaction networks that shape immune responses in human tumors. We are excited to grow into a cross-disciplinary, collaborative and diverse lab that includes clinicians, immunologists, geneticists, cancer researchers, and computational biologists.

Media Highlights

Juggling Motherhood and Science
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Cancer Immunologist Karin Pelka Joins Gladstone Institutes
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Researchers discover immune cell “hubs” hiding in tumors
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SU2C Peggy Prescott Early Career Scientist Award in Colorectal Cancer Research
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Stand Up to Cancer Awards $1.1 Million in Grants to Research Teams
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Faith Fight Finish Foundation Gala
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‘Goodness, I’m getting emotional’: How Cowboys QB Dak Prescott brought Jerry Jones to tears at gala
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Stand Up to Cancer Grants First Peggy Prescott Award in Colorectal Cancer Research
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Keep up-to-date with the latest research from the Pelka lab.
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Recent Lab News

January 2024

This month, Anna and Alisa both attended the SITC Winterschool in Austin, Texas, and Karin was invited to the 2024 SU2C Scientific Summit in Coronado Bay!

February 2024
March 2024
October 2023

Johanna Franz joined our lab as a visiting researcher from the University of Bonn and was also awarded the PROMOS Scholarship. Welcome and congrats, Johanna! We’re also thrilled to announce that we will be joining the Cancer Cell Map Initiative (CCMI)!


November 2023

The Pelka Lab had the pleasure of attending the CRISPR Cures for Cancer Symposium held at Gladstone. Sara organized an IGE Symposium where Han presented! Towards the end of the month, Karin was invited to speak at the 18th International Congress of Immunology in Cape Town. Exciting month for the Pelka Lab!

December 2023

2023 ended on a high note with a Holiday lab outing at Getiara’s place! Check out our event’s page for more pictures.

July 2023

Two new members joined the lab: Han Chen and Nils Asmann. Welcome, both! Nils was also awarded the PROMOS scholarship, and Anna and Alisa were awarded two Symbiont Seed grants. Congrats to all three of our members!

August 2023

Karin was invited to attend and speak at the Cell Symposium: The Conceptual Power of Single Cell Biology in San Diego late this month! In lab member news, Sara started her thesis, and Alisa officially gained her postdoc title. An exciting month for the Pelka Lab!  

September 2023

Earlier this month, some of our lab members had the pleasure of attending the Fall 2023 PICI retreat in Santa Barbara as well as the 2023 ImmunoX Retreat in Pacific Grove! Karin also gave a BMS Pizza talk at Parnassus.

April 2023

Four new lovely members joined the lab: Anna Ralser, Alisa Dietl, McKenzie Daanen, and Amelie Delcourt. Welcome, all! Karin, Alisa, and Anna also had the pleasure of attending the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy Spring Retreat in Hawaii!

May 2023

Karin, along with other PIs, hosted the 1st Biannual 2023 Spatial Profiling Symposium Highlighting Cancer Research! The symposium took place at the Parnassus campus and had a wonderful turnout. Congrats to all organizers for a successful event!

June 2023

The Pelka lab had the pleasure of attending the 2023 Genomic Immunology Institute Retreat along with many other labs from the institute! Karin was also invited to the 2023 Arthur and Sandra Irving Cancer Immunology Symposium in Boston towards the end of the month.

January 2023

Three new lovely members joined the lab: Sara Misiukiewicz, Jodi Lee, and Scott Engels! Welcome, all! Karin also had the pleasure of attending the SU2C Summit in San Diego. An exciting month for the Pelka Lab!

February 2023

This month marks the Pelka Lab’s first year! Our lab’s hard work and dedication never go unnoticed, and we all look forward to yet another productive and fun year!

March 2023

Earlier in March, the Pelka Lab had the pleasure of attending the Bay Area PICI Symposium held at Gladstone where Karin also presented some of the lab’s work!

November 2022

Karin served as the anchor speaker for the Cancer Immunology section of the IgEquity symposium. As an avid supporter of gender equity, Karin was happy to partake in the conference! 

October 2022

Getiara Zaidi joins the Pelka Lab as Administrative Associate to Karin Pelka, and Jack Demaray joins as Research Associate. Welcome, Getiara and Jack!

December 2022

Karin presented at UCSF’s Division of Experimental Medicine (DEM) Seminar Series!

April 2022

The Pelka Lab onboarded the inaugural team. Welcome, Aditya, Isabelle, and Sham! We are excited to be working with you!

September 2021

Cancer Immunologist Karin Pelka Joins Gladstone Institutes.

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August 2021

Researchers discover immune cell “hubs” hiding in tumors.

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