Dr. 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 and medical oncology and 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 and is currently Leon Hess Professor and Senior Attending Physician.
The Tavazoie lab employs molecular, genetic, and biochemical methods to understand the mechanisms underlying metastasis formation. Early in his career, he showed that specific non-coding RNAs (microRNAs) act as endogenous suppressors of metastasis formation. Subsequently, the Tavazoie lab showed that cancer cells arising from distinct tissues such as breast, melanoma, and colorectal cancer modulate tissue-specific sets of microRNAs that control metastatic potential. By using these microRNAs as molecular probes, downstream effector genes and pathways were discovered and cellular phenotypes underlying metastatic colonization were uncovered. These discoveries have led to a new understanding of metastasis biology and challenged the dogma that metastasis is solely driven by postulated somatic metastasis-driver mutations. For example, the lab’s work revealed that metastatic potential can pre-date tumor formation and be genetically inherited. These insights formed the basis of ongoing multi-center clinical trials, which validated "metastasis biology targeting therapy" as an approach, with proof-of-concept metastasis regression responses observed in subsets of advanced-stage, treatment-refractory patients. These studies of metastatic disease have also uncovered unexpected basic insights and demonstrated new roles for transfer RNAs (tRNAs) in gene regulation. The overarching goal of the Tavazoie lab is to understand the biology of cancer metastasis as a means of informing the development of future therapies aimed at curbing cancer mortality.
Dr. Tavazoie, who was elected to the ASCI in 2015, is recipient, among other honors, of the Rita Allen Scholar Award and the Pershing Square Sohn Prize. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine (elected in 2022).