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Karen Sandell Sfanos, M.S., Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Karen Sandell Sfanos, M.S., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Pathology

Research Interests: Prostate cancer; molecular pathology; infections and chronic inflammation; microbiome

Background

Dr. Karen Sfanos is an assistant professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on human prostate cancer, with an emphasis on cancer prevention strategies as well as the etiological factors that may contribute to prostate cancer initiation or progression.

Dr. Sfanos and her research team are particularly interested in agents that may lead to chronic prostatic inflammation, such as bacterial infections and prostatic concretions called corpora amylacea. The lab’s work is based on the hypothesis that inflammation plays a key role in the development of the proposed risk factor lesions to human prostate cancer.

Dr. Sfanos earned her M.S. at the Florida Institute of Technology. She completed a fellowship at the Johns Hopkins.

She was awarded a fellowship entitled “The Role of Bacterial Infections in Prostate Cancer Initiation” from the Prevent Cancer Foundation in 2009.

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Titles

  • Assistant Professor of Pathology
  • Assistant Professor of Oncology
  • Assistant Professor of Urology

Departments / Divisions

Education

Degrees

  • B.S., Florida Institute of Technology (Florida) (2001)
  • M.S., Florida Institute of Technology (Florida) (2003)
  • Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Maryland) (2008)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Sfanos and her lab focus on the study of human prostate cancer, with an emphasis on cancer prevention strategies as well as the etiological factors that may contribute to prostate cancer initiation or progression. She is specifically interested in agents that may lead to chronic prostatic inflammation, such as bacterial infections and prostatic concretions called corpora amylacea. Her work is based on the hypothesis that inflammation plays a key role in the development of the proposed “risk factor lesions” to human prostate cancer, i.e., proliferative inflammatory atrophy (PIA) and high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN).

Dr. Sfanos’ previous studies have demonstrated the presence of multiple microbial species in the prostate of cancer patients and, importantly, many of the organisms identified are consistent with genera associated with inflammation-associated conditions including bacterial prostatitis or urinary tract infections. She works very closely with both genitourinary pathologists as well as epidemiologists in an effort to correlate discoveries in the laboratory with prostate cancer risk as well as disease pathology.

In addition, the Sfanos lab works as part of a larger research team including the laboratories of Angelo De Marzo, M.D., Ph.D.; William Nelson, M.D., Ph.D.; and Srinivasan Yegnasubramanian, M.D., Ph.D.

Selected Publications

Sfanos K.S., Bruno T.C., Maris C.H., Xu L., Thoburn C.J., De Marzo A.M., Meeker A.K., Isaacs W.B., Drake C.G. Phenotypic analysis of prostate-infiltrating lymphocytes reveals TH17 and Treg skewing. Clinical Cancer Research. 2008; 14: 3254-3261.

Sfanos K.S., Wilson B.A., De Marzo A.M., Isaacs W.B. Acute inflammatory proteins constitute the organic matrix of prostatic corpora amylacea and calculi in men with prostate cancer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) U.S.A. 2009; 106: 3443-3448.

Aloia A.L.*, Sfanos K.S.*, Isaacs W.B., Zheng Q., Maldarelli F., De Marzo A.M., Rein A. XMRV: A new virus in prostate cancer? Cancer Research. 2010; 70: 10028-10033. *Co-first author

Shinohara, D.B., Vaghasia, A., Yu, S-H., Mak, T.N., Brüggemann, H., Nelson, W.G., De Marzo, A.M., Yegnasubramanian, S., Sfanos, K.S. A mouse model of chronic prostatic inflammation using a human prostate cancer-derived isolate of Propionibacterium acnes. Prostate, 73(9):1007-1015, 2013.

Yu, S.-H., Zheng, Q., Esopi, D., Luo, J., Macgregor-Das, A., Antonarakis, E.S., Vessella, R., Morrissey, C., De Marzo, A.M., Sfanos, K.S. A paracrine role for IL-6 in prostate cancer patients: Lack of production by primary or metastatic tumor cells. Cancer Immunology Research, 3:1175-1184, 2015.

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