Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
We are interested in combining engineering and cancer biology concepts to examine the mechanisms driving tumor recurrence and metastasis. Most studies focus solely on tumors and tumor cells but ignore the contribution of the normal tissues that surround and interact with tumor cells to disease progression. We study the relationship between tumor cells, normal tissues, and the immune system as a means of understanding the microenvironment to determine how each component contributes to metastasis and relapse after therapy. Our laboratory aims to develop bio-inspired hydrogel materials and in vitro tumor- and tissue-on-a-chip models by learning from in vivo mouse models. Specifically, we study: (1) the collateral effect of radiation and surgery of normal tissues on tumor and immune cell migration patterns, (2) the molecular profiles of normal tissues wounded from therapy, and (3) the changes in the biomechanical properties of the tumor microenvironment and surrounding normal tissues following therapy. We will analyze the physical, chemical, and biological cues that influence cancer metastasis and recurrence at the interface of engineering and medicine. These studies will ultimately enable the design of optimized cancer therapeutics.
Lartey FM*, Rafat M*, Negahdar M, Malkovskiy AV, Dong X, Sun X, Li M, Doyle T, Rajadas J, Graves EE, Loo BW Jr, Maxim PG. Dynamic CT Imaging of Volumetric Changes in Pulmonary Nodules Correlates with Physical Measurements of Stiffness. Radiotherapy and Oncology. 2017; 122(2): 313-318. *Equal contribution.
Aguilera TA, Rafat M, Castellini L, Shehade H, Kariolis MS, Hui A, Stehr H, von Eyben R, Jiang D, Ellies LG, Koong AC, Diehn M, Rankin EB, Graves EE, Giaccia AJ. Reprogramming the Immunologic Microenvironment Through Radiation and Targeting Axl. Nature Communications. 2016; 7: 13898.
You JO*, Rafat M*, Almeda D, Maldonado N, Guo P, Nabzdyk CS, Chun M, LoGerfo FW, Hutchinson JW, Pradhan-Nabzdyk LK, Auguste DT. pH-Responsive Scaffolds Generate a Pro-Healing Response. Biomaterials. 2015; 57: 22-32. *Equal contribution. Highlighted in Materials Today. May 21, 2015.
Vilalta M, Rafat M, Giaccia AJ, Graves EE. Recruitment of Circulating Breast Cancer Cells Is Stimulated by Radiotherapy. Cell Reports. 2014; 8(2): 402-409.
Rafat M, Rotenstein L, Hu J, Auguste DT. Engineered Endothelial Cell Adhesion via VCAM1 and E-selectin Antibody-Presenting Alginate Hydrogels. Acta Biomaterialia. 2012; 8(7): 2697-2703.
Rafat M, Rotenstein L, You JO, Auguste DT. Dual Functionalized PVA Hydrogels that Adhere Endothelial Cells Synergistically. Biomaterials. 2012; 33(15): 3880-3886.