Hello everyone! My name is Graciella Pio and I’m an MSc student in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at Western University. I work under the supervision of Dr. Alison Allan at London Health Sciences Centre’s London Regional Cancer Program.
My MSc project focuses on investigating the ways that breast cancer cells spread to the skeleton, as this process takes place in many breast cancer patients and usually causes bone pain, bone fractures, numbness and sometimes even paralysis. Bone tumours in breast cancer patients are currently incurable; patients with this condition usually only survive about two years. I’m trying to determine what about the bone environment makes it an attractive place for breast cancer cells to grow into secondary tumours.
So far, I’ve found that a specific protein in the bone, called Osteopontin or OPN for short, causes breast cancer cells to migrate to bone and also allows them to grow into tumours within the bone. Now that we know this about OPN, we could use this information to help develop therapeutics for breast cancer patients that prevent or reduce tumour spread to the bone!
Thank you to BCSC for your trainee support!
– Graciella Pio, student researcher
Pamela Greenaway-Kohlmeier Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit, London Health Sciences Centre