Dr. Paola Marcato

Dr. Paola Marcato

Dr. Paola Marcato

Cancer, Molly Appeal

Cancer biologist and professor Dr. Paola Marcato and cancer surgeon and professor Dr. Carman Giacomantonio have joined forces to see if together they can find a way to destroy the bad guys of cancer - cancer stem cells.

These treatment-resistant cells are programmed to proliferate and invade nearby tissues, leading the way to metastasis. At the same time, cancer stem cells do not respond to traditional cancer treatments.

"You could kill all the regular cancer cells with chemo and radiation, but still be left with the cancer stem cells - so the cancer will recur," says Dr. Marcato. "We've seen this happen again and again in our lab experiments."

Dr. Marcato has teamed up with cancer surgeon and researcher Dr. Carman Giacomantonio to learn more about cancer stem cells and how it might be possible to target and kill these deadly cells. With support from Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation, these two have been able to set up a shared lab and establish a breast cancer tissue bank - which is available to the entire cancer research community.

"The breast cancer tissue bank will allow us to examine cancer stem cells from thousands of women's cancers," notes Dr. Giacomantonio, head of surgical oncology at Capital Health and Dalhousie Medical School and medical director at Cancer Care Nova Scotia. "This will allow us to see how cancer stem cells behave in real women's cancers and to compare their cancer-stem-cell profiles with their long-term outcomes."

"We've already identified a marker on breast cancer stem cells that's strongly associated with invasive cancers," says Dr. Marcato. "Patients who show higher levels of this marker have worse outcomes... we see this as a target for treatment, not just prognosis."

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