ICC 2021

Paola Marcato

Paola Marcato, Speaker at  Oncology Conferences
Dalhousie University, Canada
Title : Genome-wide comparative analysis of long non-coding RNAs versus protein-coding transcripts reveals distinct expression profiles and patient survival correlations across cancer types


Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are emerging targets for the diagnosis and therapeutic treatment of cancer. LncRNAs are non-protein-coding transcripts that regulate gene expression by modulating chromatin structure or by interacting with other RNA species. Additionally, they exhibit high tissue- and context-specific expression, marking them as attractive biomarkers. Of the 12,727 lncRNAs identified in human cancers, the vast majority of these remain completely uncharacterized, limiting our understanding of the role of this group of non-coding RNAs. In contrast, the role of protein-coding transcripts as a class has been extensively characterized in cancer biology. To gain insight into the relative impact of lncRNAs in cancer progression in comparison to mRNAs, we conducted a comparative analysis of the two RNA species utilizing patient tumour expression and survival data in 9 cancer types.

Our analysis revealed that lncRNAs exhibit distinct expression patterns across cancers. We determined which lncRNAs are associated with patient outcomes through conducting survival analyses for each lncRNA and mRNA in each cancer type assessed. This determined that lncRNAs are as involved as mRNAs in impacting patient outcomes. Additionally, we found that the function of lncRNAs is highly cancer-dependent, with some lncRNAs playing oncogenic roles in some cancers while exhibiting benign functions in others. Our results indicate that lncRNAs enriched in tumour tissues are more oncogenic, while those depleted in tumor tissues are more tumor suppressive. This study demonstrates that lncRNAs are clinically relevant players in the progression of cancer and merit further investigation as potential therapeutic targets.


Dr. Paola Marcato obtained her BSc (Cell Biotechnology) and PhD (Medical Microbiology and Immunology) from the University of Alberta. Dr. Marcato went on to complete postdoctoral training on cancer research with Dr. Patrick Lee at Dalhousie University. In 2012, Dr. Marcato started a breast cancer research laboratory at Dalhousie University.  The research projects in Dr. Marcato’s laboratory have the long-term goal of developing improved therapeutic strategies for breast cancer based on a precision medicine approach. They use transcriptome and genome-wide functional assays, cell lines, patient-derived xenografts (PDXs), mouse tumor models, and analysis of published patient datasets to identify biomarkers, study breast cancer stem cells (CSCs) and understand factors important in breast cancer progression. These factors include epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation and long non-coding RNA.