Damon Runyon Researchers

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Rushika M. Perera, PhD

Cancer cells have a unique ability to rapidly and efficiently remodel their internal composition and metabolic dependencies in order to maintain accelerated growth, metastasize and resist anti-cancer therapies. A newly identified central regulator of this increased plasticity is an internal organelle called the lysosome. Through processing and recycling of a variety of macromolecules, the lysosome serves as an important regulator of cellular remodeling and as a source of fuel for cancer cell growth.

Dr. Perera proposes to develop a novel genetically engineered mouse model that enables isolation and purification of lysosomes from three stages during the life cycle of a tumor growing within a host organism – the primary tumor, the metastatic lesion, and following tumor relapse – with a particular focus on pancreatic cancer which is highly dependent on lysosomes for growth. She will investigate how changes in lysosome function at different stages of tumor progression contribute to metabolic adaptation and survival. This work has the potential to uncover new ways to target the altered metabolism intrinsic to pancreatic cancer and other malignancies.  

Project title: "Mechanisms of cellular transformation at the single organelle level"
Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Award Program: Innovator
Cancer Type: Pancreatic
Research Area: Animal Models/Mouse Models