Afshin Dowlati, MD

Department of Medicine
Division of Hematology and Oncology
School of Medicine
Associate Director for Clinical Research
Case Comprehensive Cancer Center
Developmental Therapeutics Program
Case Comprehensive Cancer Center

Dr. Dowlati attended the University of Liege School of Medicine and after completing an internal medicine residency there in 1996, came to Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine for an internal medicine residency and a fellowship in hematology and oncology. He joined the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2000 and became Co-Leader of the Developmental Therapeutics Program in 2007.

Research Information

Research Interests

My expertise lies in both the biology and clinical management of thoracic malignancies. From a clinical standpoint, I have led the thoracic program at Case Western Reserve University since 2000. My research is focused on the translational aspects of target validation and drug development and I am uniquely positioned to perform preclinical studies of novel drugs in cancer models with an eventual goal of taking them into the clinic. A major effort of my research lab is to identify novel therapeutics for small cell lung cancer (SCLC). There has been little progress in the clinical management of this disease over the last three decades, due largely to our limited knowledge about the underlying mechanisms driving this malignancy. We have built up a research infrastructure to study this disease, the foundation of this being a retrospective clinical-pathologic database on all SCLC patients treated at our medical center over the last 15+ years, which now numbers >800 patients. We have added genomic and transcriptomic sequencing results to this database, and recently surpassed 100 patients with genomic data. This allows us to determine which genomic mutations are the most clinically significant, in terms of both survival and chemo-response. We intend to use cell line and mouse models of SCLC to study the role of genomic mutations in this disease and to generate preclinical data to support future clinical trial applications. To help achieve progress in this cancer, we are founding members of an SCLC consortium whose task is to advance our understanding and treatment of this malignancy. Most recently we started a new research branch to define the molecular drivers of response to immune checkpoint blockade in SCLC.

Activation of tyrosine kinase receptors plays a major role in thoracic cancer and leads to downstream activation of the JAK-STAT pathway, particularly STAT3. We have found, however, that an alternative pathway for STAT3 activation in cancer is by down-regulating PIAS3, an endogenous inhibitor of activated STAT3. This is particularly true for mesothelioma and squamous cell lung cancer. Given the limited therapeutic options for these malignancies, we are focused on determining 1) the mechanism of PIAS3 down-regulation in thoracic cancer, and 2) ways to increase the expression of endogenous PIAS3. Our approach is innovative in that it seeks to activate a tumor suppressor of STAT3, rather than inhibit oncogenic STAT3 directly, which has proven problematic.

External Appointments

Lucile and Robert H Gries Endowed Director, Center for Cancer Drug Development
University Hospitals
Director, Thoracic Oncology Program
University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center
Disease Team Leader, Lung Cancer and Thoracic Scientific Team
University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center


View All Publications

  • Identification of RUNX1T1 as a potential epigenetic modifier in small-cell lung cancer. He T, Wildey G, McColl K, Savadelis A, Spainhower K, McColl C, Kresak A, Tan AC, Yang M, Abbas A, Dowlati A. Mol Oncol. 2020 Oct 20. Online ahead of print. PMID: 33084222
  • A detailed smoking history and determination of MYC status predict response to checkpoint inhibitors in advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Chiu M, Lipka MB, Bhateja P, Fu P, Dowlati A. Transl Lung Cancer Res. 2020 Feb;9(1):55-60. PMID: 32206553
  • Molecular subtypes of small cell lung cancer: a synthesis of human and mouse model data. Rudin CM, Poirier JT, Byers LA, Dive C, Dowlati A, George J, Heymach JV, Johnson JE, Lehman JM, MacPherson D, Massion PP, Minna JD, Oliver TG, Quaranta V, Sage J, Thomas RK, Vakoc CR, Gazdar AF. Nat Rev Cancer. 2019 May;19(5):289-297. PMID: 30926931
  • Retinoblastoma mutation predicts poor outcomes in advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Bhateja P, Chiu M, Wildey G, Lipka MB, Fu P, Yang MCL, Ardeshir-Larijani F, Sharma N, Dowlati A. Cancer Med. 2019 Apr;8(4):1459-1466. PMID: 30773851
  • Post-transcriptional regulation of PIAS3 expression by miR-18a in malignant mesothelioma. He T, McColl K, Sakre N, Chen Y, Wildey G, Dowlati A. Mol Oncol. 2018 Dec;12(12):2124-2135. PMID: 30259640
  • Reciprocal expression of INSM1 and YAP1 defines subgroups in small cell lung cancer. McColl K, Wildey G, Sakre N, Lipka MB, Behtaj M, Kresak A, Chen Y, Yang M, Velcheti V, Fu P, Dowlati A. Oncotarget. 2017 Aug 28;8(43):73745-73756. PMID: 29088741
  • Clinical correlation of extensive-stage small-cell lung cancer genomics. Dowlati A, Lipka MB, McColl K, Dabir S, Behtaj M, Kresak A, Miron A, Yang M, Sharma N, Fu P, Wildey G. Ann Oncol. 2016 Apr;27(4):642-7. PMID: 26802149
  • CD30 is a potential therapeutic target in malignant mesothelioma. Dabir S, Kresak A, Yang M, Fu P, Wildey G, Dowlati A. Mol Cancer Ther. 2015 Mar;14(3):740-6. PMID: 25589494
  • Low PIAS3 expression in malignant mesothelioma is associated with increased STAT3 activation and poor patient survival. Dabir S, Kluge A, Kresak A, Yang M, Fu P, Groner B, Wildey G, Dowlati A. Clin Cancer Res. 2014 Oct 1;20(19):5124-32. PMID: 25124686

Additional Information