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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The Lampert Foundation Award

Area(s) of Focus

Sohail Tavazoie, MD, PhD

Leon Hess Associate Professor & Head, Elizabeth and Vincent Meyer Laboratory of Systems Cancer Biology
Senior Attending Physician
The Rockefeller University
Assistant Attending Physician, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
New York, New York

Current Research

Exosomes are circulating particles released by cells that contain cellular proteins, RNA and DNA. Research has revealed that tumor-derived exosomes can disseminate throughout the body via the bloodstream, and ultimately fuse with non-cancerous cells in distant organs. Drs. Tavazoie and Comen are interested in a specific cellular material contained in tumor-derived exosomes called microRNA, small fragments of RNA, which is the cell’s protein coding material. MicroRNAs are known to play multiple roles in controlling how genes are turned on and off and the researchers believe that the microRNA found in tumor derived exosomes may be informative about breast cancer progression. In their BCRF research they will 1) characterize the types of microRNAs that are present in the exosomes of breast cancer patients, 2) determine how they drive breast cancer progression and 3) determine whether these circulating microRNAs could be used as biomarkers for the detection and classification of breast cancer. In addition to providing important biological insights into breast cancer progression, the discovery of predictive exosomal microRNAs could guide clinical management by informing physicians as to the likelihood of whether or not a suspicious breast mass found on mammography represents breast cancer. Ultimately, this work has great potential for clinical impact and could provide novel insights into this largely unexplored area of circulating small-RNAs in cancer.


Sohail Tavazoie graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and completed an MD-PhD program at Harvard-MIT, followed by residency training in Internal Medicine at Brigham & Women's Hospital at Harvard and medical oncology and postdoctoral fellowship training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In 2009, he was recruited to The Rockefeller University as Head of the Laboratory of Systems Cancer Biology. In addition to his laboratory work, Dr. Tavazoie is an attending medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

His laboratory studies the roles that small-RNAs play in regulating cancer metastasis. Small-RNAs, also called microRNAs, have the ability to block the expression of genes. During his postdoctoral work in Joan Massague’s laboratory at MSKCC, Dr. Tavazoie discovered the first set of non-coding RNAs that act as suppressors of metastasis. These small RNAs were found to be shut off in breast tumors of patients that metastasized. His lab at The Rockefeller University has shown that each of these small-RNAs block the expression of distinct sets of genes that enable breast cancer cells to metastasize. These genes were found to enhance the invasive capacity of breast cancer cells as well as their ability to recruit endothelial cells. His laboratory studies the mechanisms by which these small-RNAs and the genes they regulate control metastasis. By better understanding the molecular pathways that govern metastatic progression, he hopes to enable the development of novel therapeutics that prevent the formation and progression of breast cancer metastasis.