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BCRF Grantee Since


Area(s) of Focus

Ilan Tsarfaty, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Human Microbiology
Sackler School of Medicine
Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv, Israel

Current Research

In order for a tumor to spread (a process called metastasis), tumor cells must be able to break through tissue barriers, enter the circulation and become established in a new site. To achieve these steps, a tumor cell must acquire unique physical and molecular properties. The laboratories of Drs. Vande Woude, Graveel and Tsarfaty have combined several unique models to evaluate how the Met oncogene influences breast cancer metastasis, metabolism, and therapeutic resistance in breast cancer. Their recent results revealed that simultaneous inhibition of glucose metabolism and Met signaling can reduce both tumor growth and blood flow throughout the tumor. They have also discovered that Met is highly expressed in HER2+ and triple negative breast cancers and may be a mechanism of drug resistance and a promising therapeutic target. They are continuing to study how Met influences HER2+ and triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) progression using a combination of novel imaging techniques and mathematical models. In the coming year, the research team will decipher how Met interacts with other cell receptors and signaling pathways to promote tumor spread and how Met inhibition can sensitize tumor cells to standard chemotherapeutic agents. They plan to test combination therapies against TNBC progression and metastasis in patient-derived TNBC models. Overall, these studies will have a significant impact on our understanding of how Met signaling influences cell invasion, metabolism, and therapeutic response and help to inform possible new targeted approaches to decrease drug resistance.


Dr. Ilan Tsarfaty received his BSc. (1983), MSc. (1986) and PhD (1990) from Tel Aviv University. From 1991-1994, he served as a postdoctoral research associate at the National Cancer Institute's Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center. He was a visiting scientist at the Van Andel Research Institute Grand Rapids MI as a part of the Molecular Imaging Center University of Michigan (2001 - 2003). Dr. Tsarfaty has been a member of the Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University since 1994. He is the author of over 50 scientific research articles and over 10 books chapters. Dr. Tsarfaty cloned the gene of the breast cancer antigen Muc1 and showed its potential use as a marker for breast cancer. He was the first to show that the Met tyrosine kinase growth factor receptor is involved in tubule formation in mammary tubule and in mesenchymal epithelial cell conversion.

Dr. Tsarfaty was the first to show that Met is a prognostic factor for breast cancer patients. He also showed that HGF/SF alters metabolic activity by induction of Mimp a novel gene that is involved in metastasis that was cloned and characterize in Dr. Tsarfaty's lab. Dr. Tsarfaty has been leading an effort to develop noninvasive breast tumor molecular imaging modalities as a powerful tool in understanding the metabolic activity induced by Met signal transduction. This technology enhances definition of tumor margins and may allow earlier detection of smaller tumor and small metastatic lesions. Currently, Dr. Tsarfaty's lab is in the process of understanding the physical, cellular and molecular mechanism of Met induced motility leading to embryo development and metastasis.