As a co-leader of the Viral Oncology Program at University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, Dr. Barber is focused on developing virus-based therapies to treat cancer. His research focuses on understanding the mechanisms of innate immunity to viral infection and malignant disease.One of the laboratory’s interests is analyzing the function of interferons (IFNs), which can be activated following virus infection.
Dr. Barber’s laboratory discovered a new mechanism responsible for the induction of the IFNs. Researchers demonstrated that activation of IFN required death domain containing proteins such as receptor interacting protein 1 (RIP1) and the Fas-associated death domain molecule (FADD). Other ongoing research focuses on further understanding the mechanisms of RNA-mediated innate immune signaling in the cell, which could allow for the potential development of new strategies to stimulate the host immune response. These studies revealed that immune antiviral system appeared defective in tumor cells. Accordingly, studies indicated that viruses such as vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a relatively non-pathogenic RNA virus, can selectively induce the killing of malignant cells, but not normal cells.