Marina Fukano is a PhD student in Dr. Genevieve Deblois’ lab at the Université de Montréal and also in Dr. Morag Park’s lab at the Goodman Cancer Institute of McGill University. Her research focuses on elucidating the consequences of metabolic heterogeneity on the progression and drug response of triple-negative breast tumors using patient-derived xenograft models. Her project investigates the role of epigenetic regulation in tumor metabolic heterogeneity. Learn more about Marina.
What are you working on?
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a highly heterogeneous subtype of breast cancer. Along with high rates of chemoresistance, intra-tumour heterogeneity of TNBC poses an unmet challenge for treatment, contributing to the poor outcome of TNBC patients. Tumour progression is characterized by the reciprocal regulation of metabolic changes and epigenetic reprogramming that support tumour proliferation and adaptation to stress. Hence, we aim to understand how dynamic and heterogeneous reprogramming of epigenetic landscapes in response to varying levels of oxygen and nutrients: 1) contributes to intra-tumour metabolic heterogeneity of TNBC, and 2) provides metabolic gene regulations to support TNBC growth and adaptation. Our project will decipher the regulatory mechanism of metabolic profiles within TNBC and investigate how this epigenetic reprogramming modulates intra-tumour metabolic heterogeneity and metabolic flexibility of TNBC.
Where are you from? What do you miss about your hometown/country?
I am originally from Japan. I miss my family and friends in Japan, and I also really miss great Japanese food!
What city do you currently live in and what do you like most about this city?
I currently live in Montreal. I like how multi-cultural this city is. I also like the fact that this city has great access to beautiful nature!
What are some ways you detach from work/science/academia? Do you have a favourite example of this?
I go outside and spend time in nature hiking, running, skiing etc., with people I love. I also enjoy exploring different restaurants in Montreal in my spare time.
Do you have any special talents outside of research that few people in your academic life know about?
I am not sure if it’s a talent, but dancing has always been a big part of my life.
What made you decide to become a researcher?
I've always been fascinated with science since I was little. When I started working in research labs during my undergraduate degree, I realized how much I enjoy the process of research; to investigate something unknown that can lead to discoveries.
What sparked your interest in epigenetics?
The fact that the environment can change which genes to read amazes me, and I learned that epigenetics mediates this. When I started studying cancer epigenetics, I realized how much epigenetics contribute, and I got interested even more!
If you could give your “first-year-PhD-self” one advice, what would it be?
Don’t forget your love and passion for discovering something new!
Where would you like to see your research/field of interest end up in the future?
I hope to see a bigger contribution of epigenetic drugs in clinics as a treatment for many cancer patients.