2010 PhD in Immunology – University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA
2010 – 2011 Post-Doctoral Fellow, Benaroya Research Institute, Seattle, WA
2011 – 2016 Post-doctoral Fellow, University of California, San Francisco, CA
2016 – 2018 Associate Specialist, University of California, San Francisco, CA
Dr. Headley is working to understand the cellular and molecular dynamics that underlie tumor metastasis (the spread of cancer cells from a primary tumor to distant organs). The main focus of his lab is to understand how tumor-immune cell interactions variably promote or defend against metastasis. For most cancer patients, metastasis is the leading cause of death. Of particular note, metastasis to the lung is one of the most common and most detrimental sites of tumor spread, and Dr. Headley is especially interested in understanding lung metastasis. He has developed a suite of cutting-edge tools to enable these studies. His lab uses advanced microscopy and surgical techniques to directly visualize tumor cells and immune cells in live lungs in real-time, interrogating the unique lung environment during tumor metastasis with unprecedented detail by pairing this unique microscopy approach with high-resolution single cell profiling.
Dr. Headley has recently identified a unique process by which burgeoning metastatic cells shed large cytoplasmic particles from the earliest moments of metastasis. These particles, known as cytoplasts or microparticles, form a platform for engaging a particular class of immune cells called myeloid cells. Notably, during the first hours of metastasis, particular myeloid cells with protumoral properties (macrophages) versus anti-tumoral properties (dendritic cells and patrolling monocytes) encounter and ingest the tumor-derived particles. Dr. Headley seeks to understand how this particular facet of immune-tumor engagement defines anti-tumor immune responses and patient outcomes. His findings will be critical to designing new therapies that can debilitate prometastatic myeloid cell functions while enhancing anti-tumor functions, thereby saving more lives.