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Editor Spotlight: Afsheen Raza

This month, Dr. Afsheen Raza shares with us her experience with PLOS ONE as both an author and an editor, immunology as the key to understanding cancer biology, and how her international experience has enriched her work.

Dr. Afsheen Raza is currently working as an Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at the College of Health Sciences, Abu Dhabi University, UAE. She received her PhD degree in Molecular Biology, from The Aga Khan University followed by a post doctorate course in Cancer Biology and Therapeutics from Harvard Medical School, USA. She has been involved extensively in teaching and training as well as conducting cutting-edge molecular biology/immunology research and cancer clinical trials.

Her main research area focuses on investigating predictive/prognostic biomarkers related to tumor-host immune interactions to therapeutic strategies, developing immune-monitoring tools to evaluate novel immune-modulators in cancer antigen specific immune cells especially in lung, gastric and head and neck cancers.

Her research career spans over a period of 10 years with 45 high impact research papers and 4 book chapters. She has been involved in editorial work in various journals including Academic Editor for PLOS ONE journal, Section Editor for Frontiers in Immunology and Topic Editor for Intech Open book on Immune checkpoint inhibitors etc.

I have a deep connection with PLOS ONE. My first PhD thesis paper was published in this prestigious journal and I still remember the pride I felt in publishing my research findings in a journal of high repute.

Afsheen Raza

What drew you to join PLOS ONE Editorial Board and what advice would you give to the authors who want to submit to the journal?

I have a deep connection with PLOS ONE. My first PhD thesis paper was published in this prestigious journal and I still remember the pride I felt in publishing my research findings in a journal of high repute. The journal has upheld its integrity over the years with publishing high impact data and reviewing articles. While looking for a way to extend my scientific contribution as an editor, I came across the opportunity to work as an academic editor for the journal. After joining as an academic editor, I got heavily involved in performing my editorial duties including reviewing the quality of the papers submitted, finding relevant reviewers, assessing reviewer comments and deciding on the manuscript publication. The rewarding part of it is to see a high impact publication making its way into the scientific community via PLOS ONE.

My main advice to the authors who want to submit to the journal is always provide high quality figures, tables with extensive literature search to support your findings. A robust paper, even if it is associated with a simple objective, will impact the readers and the journal editors to consider it for publication.

Your research seeks to understand tumor-related immune responses. How has the field of immunology expanded our understanding of cancer biology? What are some of the emerging trends you see recently in your field?

Currently, the field of immunology is the main focus of understanding cancer dynamics. Immunology is the key as using your own immune response to combat cancer is the natural way. Large scale clinical trials, prospective and retrospective data have provided better understanding of the therapeutic advances related to immunology and cancer biology. The patient’s immune response provides a window for scientists and researchers to peak into the role of various immune cells in suppressing or activating cancer cells for patient benefit or poor outcome. These immune players are huge in number and mostly work synchronously. Therefore, finding one major immune population may not give a full understanding and focusing on a nexus of immune cells that work in conspiration with each other (and sometimes with cancer cells) is an essential ingredient to understand cancer biology.

There are a large number of emerging trends in immunology related therapeutics, including CAR T cells, novel immune checkpoint inhibitors and small molecules that have transformed cancer therapeutics and increased survival rates for cancer patients. In addition to these, non-invasive biomarkers related to liquid biopsy such as circulating tumor cells, immune mediators and metabolic markers are a cornerstone of cancer biology research and are considered extremely important as longitudinal monitoring of cancer patients plays a critical role in understanding treatment dynamics and therapeutic targeting.

You have research and training experience from institutions around the world. How has the international experience influenced your work?

My research and training experience from various countries have provided me an opportunity to understand the challenges and limitations of the research community. It has helped me adapt to the challenges and perform my work in the most impactful manner utilizing the resources available. Working with various international groups has aligned my research work towards my passion which is to find non-invasive biomarkers for cancer patients to help their journey towards a better outcome via targeted and precision medicine.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by contributors are solely those of individual contributors, and not necessarily those of PLOS.

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