Dr. Paola Marcato

Dr. Paola Marcato

Dr. Paola Marcato

Cancer

Targeting cancer's deadliest cells:
Dr. Paola Marcato takes aim at the bad guys

A cancer biologist, Dr. Marcato wants to find a way to destroy the bad guys of cancer--cancer stem cells. These 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, an associate professor and cancer biologist at Dalhousie Medical School. "We've seen this happen again and again in our lab experiments."

Dr. Marcato was able to first set up her cancer research lab at Dalhousie University with generous support from Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation. 

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."

Dr. Marcato also 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. They were able to establish a breast cancer tissue bank - which is available to the entire cancer research community.

The breast cancer tissue bank allows them to examine cancer stem cells from thousands of women's cancers to learn how cancer stem cells behave in real women's cancers and compare their cancer-stem-cell profiles with their long-term outcomes.

The addition of an Orbitrap Fusion Mass Spectrometer to Dalhousie's medical research facilities will help advance Dr. Marcato and her team's understanding of breast cancer exponentially and she is grateful to DMRF donors who contribute to funding this state-of-the-art equipment through the Fall 2019 Molly Appeal.

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