The goal of my research is to study clinically relevant questions using basic science tools. I have studied the interaction between the complement system and hemostatic factors inside blood vessels, and the effect of this interaction on thrombotic disorders. Outside of blood vessels, complement proteins play an important role in regulating the cell-cell interactions in both physiologic and pathologic conditions. We have studied the effect of complement activation in the tumor microenvironment and in the interface between antigen presenting cells and lymphocytes, and found that complement activation products enhance tumor growth and promote the alloimmune response after bone marrow transplantation. I will continue to study the extravascular function of complement proteins and investigate the possibility of delivering complement inhibitors to the tumor microenvironment or interstitial tissues as novel therapeutic tools. It is not only complement proteins that are active outside of blood vessels, and we found that platelets also extravasate into the tumor microenvironment, where they directly interact with cancer cells and promote tumor growth. My lab is interested in identifying molecular mechanisms of platelet extravasation and how platelets interact with cancer cells, aimed at developing novel inhibitors of platelets as anti-cancer therapy. I investigate the overlap between hemostasis, complement, and cancer biology because I think that elucidating the crosstalk between these seemingly separate phenomena will provide clinically useful data.
Vahid Afshar-Kharghan, MD