Asgharzadeh Laboratory

Research Topics

  • Neuroblastoma

  • Medulloblastoma

  • Ewing Sarcoma

  • Genomics

Research Overview

Our lab explores the mystery of why childhood tumors actually occur. We are working to identify the genetic differences of children who get tumors, or neuroblastoma, versus children who do not.

Our research is geared towards understanding the difference between children and the different outcomes of neuroblastoma where the tumors spread all over the body. We use gene chips from tissue samples to determine the programming change in terms of the gene levels between the two types of tumors in patients; those who have benefitted from chemotherapy versus patients who have relapsed. 

Using gene expression data from the gene chips, we have found that the immune system cells within the tumor have been neglected over the years. We have found that the immune cells are actually helping the tumors grow. We can now target the areas of tumors and are trying to change the behavior of the immune system cells so that they get rid of the tumor as opposed to helping the tumor.

We are working with new technologies to predict what patients may have been exposed to with a diagnosis of a particular cancer. We extract information from gene chips to help predict the outcome of the patient’s diagnosis to better determine the right personalized care and treatment.

Key Findings

  • Developed a gene-based test than can detect one neuroblastoma cell among one million blood or bone marrow cells. This super sensitive test dramatically improves our ability to evaluate response to treatment and will be used nationwide in the near.
  • Discovered a gene that markedly impairs the growth of medulloblastoma and glioblastoma cells, the latter being a common and deadly form of adult brain cancer. This provides a foundation for developing treatments that regulate the gene.
  • Discovered genes whose expression (activity) predicts the chance of survival for children with medulloblastoma.

Funding

  • National Institute of Health (NIH)