• UCSD Moores Cancer Center
  • Pathology and Medicine
  • (858) 822-0086
  • jvarner@ucsd.edu

Judith Varner, Ph.D.


Research Statement

I am a Professor of Medicine and Pathology at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego. I am an established leader in the field of tumor inflammation research, with a specific focus on molecular mechanisms and developmental therapeutics. My laboratory is well known for its studies on the molecular regulation of tumor inflammation, angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis and is highly experienced in employing animal models to assess tissue and organ function under homeostatic and pathophysiologic conditions. My research has led to a number of novel discoveries, including the critical roles that PI3K signaling plays in the control of the immune response during in tumor progression. Of particular importance for the proposed studies, my lab discovered critical roles for integrin α4β1, PI3Kγ, BTK and their downstream effectors in tumor inflammation and progression, demonstrating that inhibitors of these molecules suppress the recruitment and polarization of myeloid derived suppressor cells and macrophages in mouse models of head and neck cancer, lung adenocarcinoma, mammary carcinoma, pancreatic carcinoma and glioblastoma. These inhibitors are currently in early clinical trials for head and neck cancer (BTK inhibitors and PI3Kγ inhibitors). I also have significant experience in translating basic science studies to the clinic. I have documented expertise in directing and collaborating in a team science approach to fulfill the goals of research programs in cancer. Additionally, I am the Director of Faculty Mentoring in the Department of Pathology and have long experience in mentoring junior faculty, postdoctoral fellows, undergraduates and especially under-represented minorities. Examples of my work are documented in the following publications: 1. Schmid MC, Avraamides CJ, Dippold HC, Franco I, Philippe Foubert P, Ellies LG, Acevedo LM, Manglicmot JRE, Song X, Wrasidlo W, Blair SL, Ginsberg MH, Cheresh DA, Hirsch E, Field SJ, and Varner JA. Receptor tyrosine kinases and TLR/IL1Rs unexpectedly activate myeloid cell PI3K, a single convergent point promoting tumor inflammation and progression, Cancer Cell 19, 715-727 PMC3144144 (2011). 2. Gunderson AJ*, Kaneda MM*, Tsujikawa T, Nguyen AV, Affara NI, Ruffell B, Gorjestani S, Liudahl SM, Truitt M, Olson P, Kim G, Hanahan D, Tempero MA, Sheppard B, Irving B, Chang BY, Varner JA*, Coussens LM*. Bruton's Tyrosine Kinase (BTK)-dependent immune cell crosstalk drives pancreas cancer. Cancer Discov. 6, 270-85 (2016). PMC4783268 These authors contributed equally. 3. Kaneda MM, Cappello P, Nguyen AV, Ralainirina R, Hardamon C, Foubert P, Schmid MC, Ping Sun P, Mose E, Bouvet M, Lowy AM, Valasek MA, Sasik R, Novelli F, Hirsch E, Varner JA. Macrophage PI3K drives pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma progression, Cancer Discov. 6(8):870-85. (2016) PMID: 2717903 4. Kaneda MM, Messer KS, Ralainirina N, Li H, Leem C, Gorjestani S, Woo G, Nguyen AV, Figueiredo CC, Foubert P, Schmid MC, Pink M, Winkler DG, Rausch M, Palombella VJ, Kutok J, McGovern K, Frazer KA, Wu X, Karin M, Sasik R, Cohen EE, Varner JA. PI3Kγ is a molecular switch that controls immune suppression. Nature 539: 437-422 (2016) PubMed PMID: 27642729 5. Schmid MC, Khan SQ, Kaneda MM, Pathria P, Shepard R, Louis TL, Anand S, Woo G, Leem C, Faridi MH, Geraghty T, Rajagopalan A, Gupta S, Ahmed M, Vazquez-Padron RI, Cheresh DA, Gupta V, Varner JA. Integrin CD11b activation drives anti-tumor innate immunity. Nat Commun. 9, 5379 (2018). PubMed PMID: 30568188