Bachelor's degree in Animal Biology, Shahed University, Tehran, Iran (2007)
Master's degree in Medical Immunology, Tehran University, Tehran, Iran (2010)
Ph.D. degree in Biology - Cancer Immunology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, NC, USA (2019)
Postdoctoral Scholar at Stanford University (2019 - present)

Institute Affiliations

  • Member, Maternal & Child Health Research Institute (MCHRI)

Stanford Advisors


All Publications

  • ?? T Cells: The Ideal Tool for Cancer Immunotherapy. Cells Yazdanifar, M., Barbarito, G., Bertaina, A., Airoldi, I. 2020; 9 (5)


    ?? T cells have recently gained considerable attention as an attractive tool for cancer adoptive immunotherapy due to their potent anti-tumor activity and unique role in immunosurveillance. The remarkable success of engineered T cells for the treatment of hematological malignancies has revolutionized the field of adoptive cell immunotherapy. Accordingly, major efforts are underway to translate this exciting technology to the treatment of solid tumors and the development of allogeneic therapies. The unique features of ?? T cells, including their major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-independent anti-cancer activity, tissue tropism, and multivalent response against a broad spectrum of the tumors, render them ideal for designing universal 'third-party' cell products, with the potential to overcome the challenges of allogeneic cell therapy. In this review, we describe the crucial role of ?? T cells in anti-tumor immunosurveillance and we summarize the different approaches used for the ex vivo and in vivo expansion of ?? T cells suitable for the development of novel strategies for cancer therapy. We further discuss the different transduction strategies aiming at redirecting or improving the function of ?? T cells, as well as, the considerations for the clinical applications.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/cells9051305

    View details for PubMedID 32456316

  • Overcoming Immunological Resistance Enhances the Efficacy of a Novel Anti-tMUC1-CAR T Cell Treatment against Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma CELLS Yazdanifar, M., Zhou, R., Grover, P., Williams, C., Bose, M., Moore, L. J., Wu, S., Maher, J., Dreau, D., Mukherjee, P. 2019; 8 (9)


    Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells have shown remarkable success in treating hematologic cancers. However, this efficacy has yet to translate to treatment in solid tumors. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) is a fatal malignancy with poor prognosis and limited treatment options. We have developed a second generation CAR T cell using the variable fragments of a novel monoclonal antibody, TAB004, which specifically binds the tumor-associated-MUC1 (tMUC1). tMUC1 is overexpressed on ~85% of all human PDA. We present data showing that TAB004-derived CAR T cells specifically bind to tMUC1 on PDA cells and show robust killing activity; however, they do not bind or kill normal epithelial cells. We further demonstrated that the tMUC1-CAR T cells control the growth of orthotopic pancreatic tumors in vivo. We witnessed that some PDA cells (HPAFII and CFPAC) were refractory to CAR T cell treatment. qPCR analysis of several genes revealed overexpression of indoleamine 2, 3-dioxygenases-1 (IDO1), cyclooxygenase 1 and 2 (COX1/2), and galectin-9 (Gal-9) in resistant PDA cells. We showed that combination of CAR T cells and biological inhibitors of IDO1, COX1/2, and Gal-9 resulted in significant enhancement of CAR T cell cytotoxicity against PDA cells. Overcoming PDA resistance is a significant advancement in the field.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/cells8091070

    View details for Web of Science ID 000489103800129

    View details for PubMedID 31514488

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6770201

  • CAR T Cells Targeting the Tumor MUC1 Glycoprotein Reduce Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Growth. Frontiers in immunology Zhou, R., Yazdanifar, M., Roy, L. D., Whilding, L. M., Gavrill, A., Maher, J., Mukherjee, P. 2019; 10: 1149


    Antibody-derived chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy has achieved gratifying breakthrough in hematologic malignancies but has shown limited success in solid tumor immunotherapy. Monoclonal antibody, TAB004, specifically recognizes the aberrantly glycosylated tumor form of MUC1 (tMUC1) in all subtypes of breast cancer including 95% of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) while sparing recognition of normal tissue MUC1. We transduced human T cells with MUC28z, a chimeric antigen receptor comprising of the scFv of TAB004 coupled to CD28 and CD3?. MUC28z was well-expressed on the surface of engineered activated human T cells. MUC28z CAR T cells demonstrated significant target-specific cytotoxicity against a panel of human TNBC cells. Upon recognition of tMUC1 on TNBC cells, MUC28z CAR T cells increased production of Granzyme B, IFN-? and other Th1 type cytokines and chemokines. A single dose of MUC28z CAR T cells significantly reduced TNBC tumor growth in a xenograft model. Thus, MUC28z CAR T cells have high therapeutic potential against tMUC1-positive TNBC tumors with minimal damage to normal breast epithelial cells.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fimmu.2019.01149

    View details for PubMedID 31178870

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6543840

  • Emerging immunotherapeutics in adenocarcinomas: A focus on CAR-T cells. Current trends in immunology Yazdanifar, M., Zhou, R., Mukherjee, P. 2016; 17: 95?115


    More than 80% of all cancers arise from epithelial cells referred to as carcinomas. Adenocarcinomas are the most common type of carcinomas arising from the specialized epithelial cells that line the ducts of our major organs. Despite many advances in cancer therapies, metastatic and treatment-refractory cancers remain the 2nd leading cause of death. Immunotherapy has offered potential opportunities with specific targeting of tumor cells and inducing remission in many cancer patients. Numerous therapies using antibodies as antagonists or checkpoint inhibitors/immune modulators, peptide or cell vaccines, cytokines, and adoptive T cell therapies have been developed. The most innovative immunotherapy approach so far has been the use of engineered T cell, also referred to as chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-T cells). CAR-T cells are genetically modified naïve T cells that express a chimeric molecule which comprises of the antigen-recognition domains (scFv) of an anti-tumor antibody and one, two, or three intracellular signaling domains of the T cell receptor (TCR). When these engineered T cells recognize and bind to the tumor antigen target via the scFv fragment, a signal is sent to the intracellular TCR domains of the CAR, leading to activation of the T cells to become cytolytic against the tumor cells. CAR-T cell therapy has shown tremendous success for certain hematopoietic malignancies, but this success has not been extrapolated to adenocarcinomas. This is due to multiple factors associated with adenocarcinoma that are different from hematopoietic tumors. Although many advances have been made in targeting multiple cancers by CAR-T cells, clinical trials have shown adverse effects and toxicity related to this treatment. New strategies are yet to be devised to manage side effects associated with CAR-T cell therapies. In this review, we report some of the promising immunotherapeutic strategies being developed for treatment of most common adenocarcinomas with particular emphasis on the future generation of CAR-T cell therapy.

    View details for PubMedID 28659689

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5484157

  • Treatment of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma with tumor antigen specific-targeted delivery of paclitaxel loaded PLGA nanoparticles. BMC cancer Wu, S. T., Fowler, A. J., Garmon, C. B., Fessler, A. B., Ogle, J. D., Grover, K. R., Allen, B. C., Williams, C. D., Zhou, R., Yazdanifar, M., Ogle, C. A., Mukherjee, P. 2018; 18 (1): 457


    Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) remains the most aggressive cancers with a 5-year survival below 10%. Systemic delivery of chemotherapy drugs has severe side effects in patients with PDA and does not significantly improve overall survival rate. It is highly desirable to advance the therapeutic efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs by targeting their delivery and increasing accumulation at the tumor site. MUC1 is a membrane-tethered glycoprotein that is aberrantly overexpressed in >?80% of PDA thus making it an attractive antigenic target.Poly lactic-co-glycolic acid nanoparticles (PLGA NPs) conjugated to a tumor specific MUC1 antibody, TAB004, was used as a nanocarrier for targeted delivery into human PDA cell lines in vitro and in PDA tumors in vivo. The PLGA NPs were loaded with fluorescent imaging agents, fluorescein diacetate (FDA) and Nile Red (NR) or isocyanine green (ICG) for in vitro and in vivo imaging respectively or with a chemotherapeutic drug, paclitaxel (PTX) for in vitro cytotoxicity assays. Confocal microscopy was used to visualize internalization of the nanocarrier in vitro in PDA cells with high and low MUC1 expression. The in vivo imaging system (IVIS) was used to visualize in vivo tumor targeting of the nanocarrier. MTT (3-(4,5-Dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-Diphenyltetrazolium Bromide) assay was used to determine in vitro cell survival of cells treated with PTX-loaded nanocarrier. One-sided t-test comparing treatment groups at each concentration and two-way ANOVAs comparing internalization of antibody and PLGA nanoparticles.In vitro, TAB004-conjugated ICG-nanocarriers were significantly better at internalizing in PDA cells than its non-conjugated counterpart. Similarly, TAB004-conjugated PTX-nanocarriers were significantly more cytotoxic in vitro against PDA cells than its non-conjugated counterpart. In vivo, TAB004-conjugated ICG-nanocarriers showed increased accumulation in the PDA tumor compared to the non-conjugated nanocarrier while sparing normal organs.The study provides promising data for future development of a novel MUC1-targeted nanocarrier for direct delivery of imaging agents or drugs into the tumor microenvironment.

    View details for DOI 10.1186/s12885-018-4393-7

    View details for PubMedID 29685122

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5914049

  • A novel association of neuropilin-1 and MUC1 in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma: role in induction of VEGF signaling and angiogenesis. Oncogene Zhou, R., Curry, J. M., Roy, L. D., Grover, P., Haider, J., Moore, L. J., Wu, S. T., Kamesh, A., Yazdanifar, M., Ahrens, W. A., Leung, T., Mukherjee, P. 2016; 35 (43): 5608?18


    We report that Mucin1 (MUC1), a transmembrane glycoprotein that is overexpressed in >80% of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), induced a pro-angiogenic tumor microenvironment by increasing the levels of neuropilin-1 (NRP1, a co-receptor of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)) and its ligand VEGF. Expression of tumor-associated MUC1 (tMUC1) positively correlated with NRP1 levels in human and mouse PDA. Further, tMUC1hi PDA cells secreted high levels of VEGF and expressed high levels of VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR2) and its phosphorylated forms as compared with tMUC1low/null PDA. This enabled the tMUC1hi/NRP1hi PDA cells to (a) induce endothelial cell tube formation, (b) generate long ectopic blood vessels and (c) enhance distant metastasis in a zebrafish xenograft model. Concurrently, the proteins associated with epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, N-cadherin and Vimentin, were highly induced in these tMUC1/NRP1hi PDA cells. Hence, blocking signaling via the NRP1-VEGF axis significantly reduced tube formation, new vessel generation and metastasis induced by tMUC1hi PDA cells. Finally, we show that blocking the interaction between VEGF165 and NRP1 with a NRP1 antagonist significantly reduced VEGFR signaling and PDA tumor growth in vivo. Taken together, our data suggest a novel molecular mechanism by which tMUC1 may modulate NRP1-dependent VEGFR signaling in PDA cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/onc.2015.516

    View details for PubMedID 26804176

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4960005

  • Antibody-Guided In Vivo Imaging for Early Detection of Mammary Gland Tumors. Translational oncology Moore, L. J., Roy, L. D., Zhou, R., Grover, P., Wu, S. T., Curry, J. M., Dillon, L. M., Puri, P. M., Yazdanifar, M., Puri, R., Mukherjee, P., Dréau, D. 2016; 9 (4): 295?305


    Earlier detection of transformed cells using target-specific imaging techniques holds great promise. We have developed TAB 004, a monoclonal antibody highly specific to a protein sequence accessible in the tumor form of MUC1 (tMUC1). We present data assessing both the specificity and sensitivity of TAB 004 in vitro and in genetically engineered mice in vivo.Polyoma Middle T Antigen mice were crossed to the human MUC1.Tg mice to generate MMT mice. In MMT mice, mammary gland hyperplasia is observed between 6 and 10 weeks of age that progresses to ductal carcinoma in situ by 12 to 14 weeks and adenocarcinoma by 18 to 24 weeks. Approximately 40% of these mice develop metastasis to the lung and other organs with a tumor evolution that closely mimics human breast cancer progression. Tumor progression was monitored in MMT mice (from ages 8 to 22 weeks) by in vivo imaging following retro-orbital injections of the TAB 004 conjugated to indocyanine green (TAB-ICG). At euthanasia, mammary gland tumors and normal epithelial tissues were collected for further analyses.In vivo imaging following TAB-ICG injection permitted significantly earlier detection of tumors compared with physical examination. Furthermore, TAB-ICG administration in MMT mice enabled the detection of lung metastases while sparing recognition of normal epithelia.The data highlight the specificity and the sensitivity of the TAB 004 antibody in differentiating normal versus tumor form of MUC1 and its utility as a targeted imaging agent for early detection, tumor monitoring response, as well as potential clinical use for targeted drug delivery.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.tranon.2016.05.001

    View details for PubMedID 27567952

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5006816

  • The effect of carrier type on bone regeneration of demineralized bone matrix in vivo. The Journal of craniofacial surgery Tavakol, S., Khoshzaban, A., Azami, M., Kashani, I. R., Tavakol, H., Yazdanifar, M., Sorkhabadi, S. M. 2013; 24 (6): 2135?40


    Demineralized bone matrix (DBM) is a bone substitute biomaterial used as an excellent grafting material. Some factors such as carrier type might affect the healing potential of this material. The background data discuss the present status of the field: Albumin as a main protein in blood and carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) were applied frequently in the DBM gels. We investigated the bone-repairing properties of 2 DBMs with different carriers. Bone regeneration in 3 groups of rat calvaria treated with DBM from the Iranian Tissue Bank Research and Preparation Center, DBM from Hans Biomed Corporation, and an empty cavity was studied. Albumin and CMC as carriers were used. The results of bone regeneration in the samples after 1, 4, and 8 weeks of implantation were compared. The block of the histologic samples was stained with hematoxylin and eosin, and the percentage area of bone formation was calculated using the histomorphometry method. The results of in vivo tests showed a significantly stronger new regenerated bone occupation in the DBM with albumin carrier compared with the one with CMC 8 weeks after the implantation. The 2 types of DBM had a significant difference in bone regeneration. This difference is attributed to the type of carriers. Albumin could improve mineralization and bioactivity compared with CMC.

    View details for DOI 10.1097/SCS.0b013e3182a243d4

    View details for PubMedID 24220423

  • Evaluation of cytokines in multiple sclerosis patients treated with mesenchymal stem cells. Archives of medical research Mohyeddin Bonab, M., Mohajeri, M., Sahraian, M. A., Yazdanifar, M., Aghsaie, A., Farazmand, A., Nikbin, B. 2013; 44 (4): 266?72


    Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are currently strong candidates for stem cell therapy. Cytokines have a profound effect on the resultant immune responses. This study aims to evaluate variations in the cytokine profile of multiple sclerosis patients treated with autologous MSC.Twenty five patients received one dose of intrathecal MSCs (mean number: 29.5 × 10?). To measure the gene expression of FOXP3, IFN-?, TGF-?, IL-4, IL-10, IL-6, and their serum proteins, samples were collected at five intervals: day 0 prior to injection and months 1, 3, 6, and 12 after MSC therapy. Gene expression was evaluated via real-time PCR and protein values were measured by ELISA.There were no statistically significant variations in gene expression and serum level of cytokines after a 1-year follow-up of MSC-treated MS patients. The only correlation found was an increase in IL-6 gene expression in patients with progressive disease.Intrathecal injection of MSCs does not affect cytokine variation in peripheral blood. Because the condition of most of our patients either improved or stabilized after stem cell therapy (SCT), we speculate that the immunomodulatory or neuroregenerative effects of MSC are exerted locally in the central nervous system.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.arcmed.2013.03.007

    View details for PubMedID 23684533

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