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Marina Pasca Di Magliano

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Primary Appointment: GSA - Administration (GSA/ADM)
Primary PIBS Dept.: Cell and Developmental Biology

  Our laboratory investigates the formation and progression of pancreatic cancer, one of the most lethal human malignancies. We use genetically engineered mouse models of pancreatic cancer which mimic the progression of the human disease.
Additional research topics in the lab are:
1. Stem cell genes in pancreatic carcinogenesis: we are exploring the role of Bmi1 in the initiation of pancreatic cancer. Bmi1 is part of chromatin remodeling complex, and it marks stem cells within several tissues and organs. Our preliminary data indicates that Bmi1 is also essential for the formation of pancreatic cancer. we are currently defining the nature of Bmi1 expressing cells in the normal pancreas, as well as mechanisms through which Bmi1 expression is required for carcinogenesis.
2. We study embryonic signaling pathways, such as Hedgehog and Wnt, which are activated during pancreatic carcinogenesis. The two main goals of this project are to define the role of these signaling pathway in pancreatic carcinogenesis, and to determine whether blocking their activity might be used as a therapeutic strategy.
3. The pancreatic cancer microenvironment. Like any normal tissue in the body, a tumor is formed by several cell types, such as tumor cells (of epithelial origin) fibroblasts, pancreatic stellate cells, endothelial cells and infiltrating immune cells. The interaction between tumor cells and other cell types within the tumor is essential for tumor growth and malignancy. We are interested in understanding the mechanisms through which the tumor cells interact with the components of the tumor stroma, and whether that interaction is mediated through Hedgehog signaling.
4. Inflammation and cancer. There is a strong link between inflammation of the pancreas and pancreatic cancer. We study how the inflammatory environment promotes carcinogenesis using mouse models of acute and chronic pancreatitis.

The goal of this research is to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying pancreatic cancer development.