Member Spotlight: Jeffrey Harrison, Ph.D.

Jeffrey K. Harrison, Ph.D., is a professor and vice chair of education in the department of pharmacology and therapeutics in the UF College of Medicine. His research is focused on understanding the immune-suppressive microenvironment of highly malignant brain tumors such as glioblastoma. The laboratory uses preclinical mouse models of glioma to probe interactions between glioma and immune cells. The long-term goals are directed toward the development of novel approaches to slow glioma progression and overcoming treatment resistance.

Jeffrey Harrison, Ph.D.

Harrison earned his Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Michigan and then earned his Ph.D. in Pharmacology in 1988 also at the University of Michigan. He completed postdoctoral training in the department of pharmacology at the University of Virginia. He joined the University of Florida in 1993.

At the UF Health Cancer Center, he is a member of the Immuno-Oncology and Microbiome research program. His brain tumor research is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and Florida Center for Brain Tumor Research.

Q: What are your current research interests?

A: The current research interest of the lab is aimed at understanding the complex tumor microenvironment of glioblastoma. These gliomas are very heterogenous, with respect to both the cancer cells and the immune cells present within the tumor. We mainly use preclinical murine models of the disease, and the historical focus has been studying the roles of chemokines and chemokine receptors in glioma-immune cell interactions. My interests include the development and evaluation of pharmacologic approaches to disrupt the function of glioma-associated immune-suppressive myeloid cells.

Q: How did you end up going into research and why did you decide on your specialty?

A: My early scientific interests were focused on understanding the mechanisms by which psychoactive drugs influence the brain. I really enjoyed organic chemistry, as well as biochemistry and had little to no idea what the discipline of pharmacology was all about. My first involvement in biomedical research, as an undergraduate student, was in a neuropharmacology lab in the department of pharmacology at the University Michigan Medical School. That experience solidified my interest in biomedical research and sparked my passion for pharmacology. This led to entrance into the pharmacology Ph.D. program at the University of Michigan.

My research in graduate school, as a postdoctoral fellow and during my early tenure at UF, mainly used biochemical and molecular biological methods to address the scientific questions. This evolved over the years to include extensive use of preclinical mouse models of glioblastoma. My long-time involvement in pharmacology has taught me to embrace multidisciplinary approaches to tackle scientific problems.

Q: Why did you decide to focus on cancer?

During my initial time at UF, my focus was on elucidating roles of chemokines and chemokine receptors in mechanisms of communication between neurons and microglia, largely as a result of a very productive collaboration with my UF colleague Wolfgang “Jake” Streit, Ph.D. From there, it was a logical step to study chemokine systems in brain tumor biology and specifically how gliomas use these molecules to promote the influx of microglia and other immune-suppressive myeloid cell populations into the tumor.

Jeffrey Harrison, Ph.D., outside of the lab.

Q: What excites you and what do you want to achieve with your work?

Making new discoveries in the lab. I have been very fortunate to have and continue to work with many wonderful colleagues here at UF and elsewhere. My success can also be attributed to the several trainees that have worked in my group, in particular all of the talented and dedicated Ph.D. students who I have mentored. It is my hope that the translational research we do will make its way into the clinic for the benefit of patients diagnosed with glioblastomas.

“It is my hope that the translational research we do will make its way into the clinic for the benefit of patients diagnosed with glioblastomas.”

Jeffrey Harrison, Ph.D.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

A: Outside of work, I enjoy riding a road bicycle and playing golf.