Rafat Tumor and Tissue Microenvironment Laboratory


Research Overview

Delineating the microenvironmental components that regulate breast cancer metastasis and recurrence following therapy


Our research applies chemical and biomedical engineering concepts toward examining the mechanisms driving breast cancer recurrence and metastasis. We study how microenvironmental factors facilitate tumor recurrence to sites of tissues damaged by surgery or radiotherapy, which is complex and not fully understood. We use in vivo and biomimetic in vitro tumor models that recapitulate the microenvironment to better understand the mechanisms that drive tumor recurrence. Our current studies focus on the effect of radiation and surgery on tumor and immune cell migration, the molecular profiles of tissues wounded from therapy, and the biomechanical properties of tissues following therapy. We use pre-clinical breast cancer models, multiple non-invasive imaging modalities, and biomaterials to probe the reasons behind tumor cell recruitment to specific tissues.

Area 1

Characterization of biological and biomechanical changes of the microenvironment following therapy


Area 2

Determination of the effect of therapy on tumor-stromal interactions


Area 3

Understanding how injury to the microenvironment alters immune cell dynamics and immune-tumor interactions