Photo of Sherine Elsawa

Sherine Elsawa

associate professor

Targeting the microenvironment in cancer 

Graphic Illustrating Dr. Elsawa's ResearchThe long-term goal of our research group is to improve the treatment of cancer patients through the understanding of cytokine signaling in the tumor microenvironment. 

Despite major therapeutic advances in the treatment of cancer, most malignancies remain incurable. Evidence for the role of the microenvironment that surrounds the tumor cells is growing. The tumor microenvironment is composed of stroma, vasculature, inflammatory cells, cytokines, growth factors and the extracellular matrix. There is compelling evidence to suggest that the crosstalk between malignant cells and stromal cells in the tumor microenvironment favors disease progression by promoting malignant cell functions as well as drug resistance. Therefore, disrupting this interaction between the tumor cells and their microenvironment is an attractive strategy for cancer treatment. As the paradigm in the treatment of cancer shifts toward combining therapies that target both malignant cells and the microenvironment, a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that regulate the crosstalk between malignant cells and the microenvironment are clearly needed. Cytokines within the tumor microenvironment can profoundly affect tumor cells and targeting cytokines has been shown to have therapeutic efficacy in several neoplasms. Therefore, identification of cytokines that are dysregulated in cancer and understanding the mechanisms of their regulation may serve as a therapeutic avenue for targeted cancer therapy. 

Our group is studying the tumor microenvironment using the bone marrow microenvironment as a model. We have identified cytokines that are dysregulated in lymphoma patients and their impact on the biology of these malignancies. Using a combination of in vitro/in vivo genetic and pharmacological models, we have shown a define signaling that uses GLI transcription factors, effectors of the Hedgehog pathway, as mediators of the crosstalk between the cytokines such as CCL5 (RANTES) and IL-6 in the tumor microenvironment.

Ongoing projects in our group focus on the following:

  • New signaling molecules affecting the tumor-microenvironment.
  • Cytokine interaction in the tumor microenvironment.
  • Development of in vivo models to study the tumor microenvironment.


Sherine Elsawa Lab

View complete publications list at PubMed

Curriculum Vitae

Postdoctoral training

Mayo Clinc, Rochester, MN 2003-2011


Ph.D., 2003, University of North Carolina, Charoltte, NC

M.S., 1998, Florida International University, Miami FL

B.S., 1992, University of Alexandria, Alexandria, Egypt

Field of Interest

Immunology, Cancer biology, Tumor microenvironment


Sherine Elsawa
Office: MO 436 Phone: (815) 753-7839
Lab: MO 413/414