Khashayarsha Khazaie, Ph.D., D.Sc., directs basic and translational research in cancer immunology and immunosenescence.
Dr. Khazaie's lab studies immune responses that help tumors grow and spread as well as immune responses that protect against cancer. A major focus is on regulatory T cells (Tregs), their subsets, and their diverse functions in regulating inflammation and immunity in the gastrointestinal tract. In this context, there is interest in the role of microbiota and circadian rhythm.
Breast cancer recurrence is a second topic of research, wherein the role of the immune system in controlling tumor dissemination, tumor dormancy and metastasis is investigated. Novel microbial-based vaccines are tested for treatment of metastatic breast cancer.
Dr. Khazaie is also interested in understanding how the immune system changes during the aging process and how these changes help to predispose the aged to cancer.
Finally, Dr. Khazaie is dedicated to ensuring continually high-quality patient care through the education of current and future physicians and scientists, and carries out various teaching activities in the field of immunology.
- Treg mechanisms to suppress or promote inflammation. Tregs have inflammation suppressive properties, which protect against autoimmunity, infection, aging and cancer. Dr. Khazaie has shown that the reversal of the anti-inflammatory properties of Tregs during cancer is a major tumor-promoting event; he is interested in the cell intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms that are responsible for this change. Among the cell intrinsic mechanisms, his team focuses on the Wnt/β-catenin/RORγt signaling pathway. For cell extrinsic mechanisms, the team is studying microbiota and the circadian rhythm. The ultimate objective of these studies is to reduce the risk of cancer and to hinder tumor growth in the cancer patient.
- Mast cells and inflammation. Inflammation is intimately associated with tissue remodeling and regeneration. These properties are used by cancer cells to help tumors grow and spread. Dr. Khazaie's team is studying the role of mast cells in orchestrating inflammation and promoting tissue remodeling and tumor invasion. The goal is to understand what components of inflammation promote cancer and to alter these in a targeted manner to subdue cancer.
- Tumor dissemination, dormancy and metastasis. Early dissemination of tumor cells to the bone marrow and their persistence in a dormant state is a common event in breast cancer, prostate cancer and potentially most other cancers. This tumor cell persistence is a "ticking bomb" and is responsible for cancer recurrence years after surgical removal of the primary tumor. Dr. Khazaie is investigating how immunity contributes to the control of breast cancer tumor dissemination and tumor cell persistence after surgery. Understanding what keeps tumor cells dormant will help to prevent cancer recurrence. In addition, he is studying novel vaccination strategies for treatment of metastatic breast cancer based on the intratumor injection of anaerobic bacteria.
Significance to patient care
The ultimate goal of Dr. Khazaie's studies is to achieve better outcomes for cancer patients and to improve health span for the elderly through manipulation of the immune system.
- Associate editor, Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer, 2013-present
- Ad hoc member, Gastrointestinal Mucosal Pathobiology Study Section, National Institutes of Health, 2012-present
- Editorial board, Cancer Immunology Research journal, 2012-present
- Associate editor, Tumor Immunity, Frontiers of Immunology and Frontiers in Oncology, 2011-present