Dr. Rebecca is internationally known for his discoveries in autophagy-lysosome function, therapy resistance, and cancer research. He and his colleagues firstly identified palmitoyl-protein thioesterase 1 (PPT1) as the protein target of hydroxychloroquine, the only autophagy-lysosome inhibitor clinically available for the treatment of patients with advanced cancer. This research has revealed the importance of PPT1 in autophagy-lysosome function and immunotherapy resistance in melanoma. Later, he and his colleagues discovered a gene signature shared between tumor cells and skin-derived stem cells not previously known to drive therapy resistance and metastatic capacity of melanoma cells, including the receptor LPAR1. More recently, his group has developed and characterized novel models of acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM), the most lethal and common subtype of cutaneous melanoma in underrepresented patient populations, to understand why existing cutaneous melanoma therapies are not as effective in patients with ALM.
Dr. Rebecca is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is also a Member of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Department of Oncology and the Melanoma Program in the Kimmel Cancer Center. He has a B.S. from Lafayette College and a Ph.D. from the University of South Florida / H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center cancer biology graduate program. Dr. Rebecca serves on the Steering Committee for the Society for Melanoma Research and on various committees to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the biomedical sciences. He is the recipient of several awards for his work including the Melanoma Research Foundation Young Investigator Award (2019), the Christopher Marshall Award (2018), and the Johns Hopkins University Faculty Innovation Award (2021).