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Marjan Rafat

Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Biomedical Engineering

Intellectual Neighborhoods

Research Focus

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.

Selected Publications:

Hacker BC, Herman DC, Lin EJ, Questell AM, Martello SE, Hedges RJ, Walker AJ, Rafat M#. Irradiated Mammary Spheroids Elucidate Mechanisms of Macrophage-Mediated Breast Cancer Recurrence. BioRxiv. 2022. Available from:

Corn KC, Britto LS, Ivanova YI, Mohamed Y, Rafat M. Radiation-Induced Metabolic Reprogramming of Fibroblasts Regulates the Breast Cancer Microenvironment. BioRxiv. 2022. Available from:

Zhu T, Alves SM, Adamo A, Wen X, Corn KC, Shostak A, Shaub ND, Hacker BC, D’Amore A, Bardhan R, Rafat M. Mammary Tissue-Derived Extracellular Matrix Hydrogels Reveal the Role of the Irradiated Microenvironment in Breast Cancer Recurrence. BioRxiv. 2022. Available from:

Berumen Sánchez G, Bunn KE, Pua HH, Rafat M. Extracellular Vesicles: Mediators of Intercellular Communication in Tissue Injury and Disease. Cell Communication and Signaling. 2021; 19(1): 104.

Sherry AD, von Eyben R, Newman NB, Gutkin P, Mayer I, Horst KC, Chakravarthy AB, Rafat M. Systemic Inflammation after Radiation Predicts Locoregional Recurrence, Progression, and Mortality in Stage II-III Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics. 2020; 108(1): 268-276. 

Hacker BC and Rafat M. Organoids as Complex In Vitro Models for Studying Radiation-Induced Cell Recruitment. Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering. 2020; 13(4): 341-357.

Corn KC, Windham MA, Rafat M. Lipids in the tumor microenvironment: From cancer progression to treatment. Progress in Lipid Research. 2020; 80: 101055.

Carozza JA, Böhnert V, Shaw KE, Nguyen KC, Skariah G, Brown JA, Rafat M, von Eyben R, Graves EE, Glenn JS, Smith M, Li L. Extracellular cGAMP is a cancer cell-produced immunotransmitter involved in radiation-induced anti-cancer immunity. Nature Cancer. 2020; 1: 184-196. 

Rafat M, Aguilera TA, Vilalta M, Bronsart LL, Soto LA, von Eyben R, Golla MA, Ahrari Y, Melemenidis S, Afghahi A, Jenkins MJ, Kurian AW, Horst KC, Giaccia AJ, Graves EE. Macrophages Promote Circulating Tumor Cell-Mediated Local Recurrence Following Radiation Therapy in Immunosuppressed Patients. Cancer Research. 2018; 78(15): 4241-4252.

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.