The Luftig laboratory studies viruses that cause cancer with an overarching goal of defining the basic molecular mechanisms underlying pathogenesis and leveraging these findings for diagnostic value and therapeutic intervention. Our work primarily focuses on the common herpesvirus, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). This virus latently infects virtually all adults worldwide being acquired early in life. In the immune suppressed, EBV promotes lymphomas in the B cells that it naturally infects. However, EBV can also infect epithelial cells and other lymphocytes contributing to human cancers as wide-ranging as nasopharyngeal and gastric carcinoma to aggressive NK/T-cell, Burkitt, and Hodgkin lymphomas. Overall, EBV contributes to approximately 2% of all human cancers worldwide leading to nearly 200,000 deaths annually.
We use cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary and highly collaborative approaches to characterize the temporal dynamics and single cell heterogeneity of EBV infection. With these strategies, we aim to discover fundamental molecular circuits underlying transcriptional control, viral manipulation of host signaling pathways, and metabolic regulation that collectively influence infected cell fate decisions. By understanding the nature of viral control of infected host cells, we are also well positioned to discover vulnerabilities in EBV-associated diseases and characterize new therapeutic interventions in cell-based and pre-clinical animal models.