Varki, Nissi
Varki Nissi, MD
Professor of Pathology

University of California, San Diego


1974 MD Medicine Christian Medical College, Vellore
1981 Postdoctoral Fellow Tumor Immunology Washington University SOM, St. Louis, MO
1982 Postdoctoral Fellow Tumor Immunology Research Institute of Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, CA



Dr. Nissi Varki completed her MBBS degree in 1974 from Christian Medical College, Vellore, India, one of the foremost medical institutions in South-East Asia.
She then completed pathology residencies at Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska, and at St. Louis, Missouri. She was Board Certified in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology in 1983. She went on to postdoctoral training in tumor immunology, first at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and then at the Research Institute of Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, CA.

In 1984 she was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she started her NIH funded research in cancer metastasis. She then moved to her joint appointment in the Departments of Medicine and Pathology at the University of California, San Diego, where she used her funded NIH RO1 grants to continue her work on lung carcinoma metastasis and in developing athymic mouse models of carcinoma metastasis. She also started four histopathology core laboratories, helping investigators analyze genetically altered animals.
She is on the School of Medicine Recruitment and Admissions Executive Committee and teaches laboratory sessions for the sophomore SOM 208 Human Disease course. She teaches immunohistochemistry and histopathology during one-on-one sessions with medical and graduate postdoctoral fellows. She also helps students attain histotechnology certification and teaches undergraduate BIO 199 as well as an elective course for graduate and medical students during the fall quarter MED 234 entitled "Practical Histopathology in mouse models of human disease".

Research Interest

  • Inflammation Cancer
  • Comparative Histopathology Analysis Of Genetically Altered Mice
  • Models Of Human Diseases Including Cancer, Inflammatory Disorders And Microbial Infections
  • Role Of Glycosylated Molecules In Tumor Progression And Metastasis
  • Antibody-Mediated Inflammation In Human Carcinogenesis
  • Tissue And Species-Specific Expression Of Sialic-Acid Binding Lectin Receptors
  • Immunological Mechanisms Operating At The Gastrointestinal Mucosal Epithelium And Their Role In Chronic Colitis And Colon Cancer Development


Professional Activities:

1977 - 1979 Resident, Anatomic/Clinical Pathology, Creighton University, Omaha, NE
1979 - 1981 Resident, Anatomic/Clinical Pathology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
1981 - 1982 NIH Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
1982 - 1984 Research Associate, Immunology, Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, CA
1984 - 1984 Pathologist, Scripps Clinic, La Joll, CA
1984 - 1985 Assistant Professor in Residence, UC Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
1985 - 1985 Assistant Professor, UC San Diego, La Jolla, CA
1996 - 2003 Associate Professor of Pathology, UC San Diego, La Jolla, CA
2003 - Professor of Pathology, UC San Diego, La Jolla, CA

Other Experience and Professional Memberships

  • Member, College of American Pathologists
  • Member, American Society for Investigative Pathology
  • Member, Histochemical Society



  1. Varki NM, Roome L, Sparkes RS, Miller JE. Microscopic metastasis of a human lung carcinoma cell line in athymic nude mice: isolation of a metastatic variant. Int J Cancer. 1987 Jul 15;40(1):46-52. PubMed PMID: 3596831.
  2. McKenzie BA, Barrieux A, Varki NM. A novel detection system for submicroscopic human metastases in athymic mice. Cancer Commun. 1991 Jan;3(1):15-9. PubMed PMID: 1989644.
  3. Varki NM, Han H, Hamsayeh J, Vu TP. Clones of a spontaneously metastatic human lung carcinoma cell line differ in their in vitro and in vivo phenotypic characteristics. Tumour Biol. 1992;13(4):237-47. PubMed PMID: 1411141.
  4. Norgard KE, Han H, Powell L, Kriegler M, Varki A, et al. Enhanced interaction of L-selectin with the high endothelial venule ligand via selectively oxidized sialic acids. ProcNatlAcadSci U S A. 1993 Feb 1;90(3):1068-72. PubMed PMID: 7679216; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC45812.
  5. Kim YJ, Borsig L, Han HL, Varki NM, Varki A. Distinct selectin ligands on colon carcinoma mucins can mediate pathological interactions among platelets, leukocytes, and endothelium. Am J Pathol. 1999 Aug;155(2):461-72. PubMed PMID: 10433939; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1866847.
  6. Borsig L, Wong R, Feramisco J, Nadeau DR, Varki NM, et al. Heparin and cancer revisited: mechanistic connections involving platelets, P-selectin, carcinoma mucins, and tumor metastasis. ProcNatlAcadSci U S A. 2001 Mar 13;98(6):3352-7. PubMed PMID: 11248082; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC30657.
  7. Borsig L, Wong R, Hynes RO, Varki NM, Varki A. Synergistic effects of L- and P-selectin in facilitating tumor metastasis can involve non-mucin ligands and implicate leukocytes as enhancers of metastasis. ProcNatlAcadSci U S A. 2002 Feb 19;99(4):2193-8. PubMed PMID: 11854515; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC122341.
  8. Hedlund M, Ng E, Varki A, Varki NM. alpha 2-6-Linked sialic acids on N-glycans modulate carcinoma differentiation in vivo. Cancer Res. 2008 Jan 15;68(2):388-94. PubMed PMID: 18199532.
  9. Martin LT, Marth JD, Varki A, Varki NM. Genetically altered mice with different sialyltransferase deficiencies show tissue-specific alterations in sialylation and sialic acid 9-O-acetylation. J Biol Chem. 2002 Sep 6;277(36):32930-8. PubMed PMID: 12068010.
  10. Gagneux P, Cheriyan M, Hurtado-Ziola N, van der Linden EC, Anderson D, et al. Human-specific regulation of alpha 2-6-linked sialic acids. J Biol Chem. 2003 Nov 28;278(48):48245-50. PubMed PMID: 14500706.
  11. Altheide TK, Hayakawa T, Mikkelsen TS, Diaz S, Varki N, et al. System-wide genomic and biochemical comparisons of sialic acid biology among primates and rodents: Evidence for two modes of rapid evolution. J Biol Chem. 2006 Sep 1;281(35):25689-702. PubMed PMID: 16769723.
  12. Orr SL, Le D, Long JM, Sobieszczuk P, Ma B, et al. A phenotype survey of 36 mutant mouse strains with gene-targeted defects in glycosyltransferases or glycan-binding proteins. Glycobiology. 2013 Mar;23(3):363-80. PubMed PMID: 23118208; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3605971.
  13. Brinkman-Van der Linden EC, Hurtado-Ziola N, Hayakawa T, Wiggleton L, Benirschke K, et al. Human-specific expression of Siglec-6 in the placenta. Glycobiology. 2007 Sep;17(9):922-31. PubMed PMID: 17580316.
  14. Mitra N, Banda K, Altheide TK, Schaffer L, Johnson-Pais TL, et al. SIGLEC12, a human-specific segregating (pseudo)gene, encodes a signaling molecule expressed in prostate carcinomas. J Biol Chem. 2011 Jul 1;286(26):23003-11. PubMed PMID: 21555517; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3123068.
  15. Wang X, Chow R, Deng L, Anderson D, Weidner N, et al. Expression of Siglec-11 by human and chimpanzee ovarian stromal cells, with uniquely human ligands: implications for human ovarian physiology and pathology. Glycobiology. 2011 Aug;21(8):1038-48. PubMed PMID: 21467073; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3130538.
  16. Läubli H, Pearce OM, Schwarz F, Siddiqui SS, Deng L, et al. Engagement of myelomonocytic Siglecs by tumor-associated ligands modulates the innate immune response to cancer. ProcNatlAcadSci U S A. 2014 Sep 30;111(39):14211-6. PubMed PMID: 25225409; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4191788
  17. Hedlund M, Padler-Karavani V, Varki NM, Varki A. Evidence for a human-specific mechanism for diet and antibody-mediated inflammation in carcinoma progression. ProcNatlAcadSci U S A. 2008 Dec 2;105(48):18936-41. PubMed PMID: 19017806; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2596253.
  18. Diaz SL, Padler-Karavani V, Ghaderi D, Hurtado-Ziola N, Yu H, et al. Sensitive and specific detection of the non-human sialic Acid N-glycolylneuraminic acid in human tissues and biotherapeutic products. PLoS One. 2009;4(1):e4241. PubMed PMID: 19156207; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2626223.
  19. Pham T, Gregg CJ, Karp F, Chow R, Padler-Karavani V, et al. Evidence for a novel human-specific xeno-auto-antibody response against vascular endothelium. Blood. 2009 Dec 10;114(25):5225-35. PubMed PMID: 19828701; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2792214.
  20. Samraj AN, Läubli H, Varki N, Varki A. Involvement of a non-human sialic Acid in human cancer. Front Oncol. 2014;4:33. PubMed PMID: 24600589; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3928833


clinical-laboratory-medicine-flyer Flyer