Paola Marcato



Phone: 902-494-4239, 902-494-4241 (lab)
Mailing Address: 
Dalhousie University
Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building, 11-C1
5850 College Street
PO Box 15000
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 4R2
Research Topics:
  • Pathobiology of cancer
  • Breast cancer stem cells
  • Drug resistance
  • Molecular diagnostics and biomarkers
  • Gene expression profiling of cancer
  • Non-coding RNA
  • Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation-Atlantic Region Endowed Chair in Breast Cancer Research
  • Nova Scotia Health Affiliate Scientist (Research)
  • Senior Scientist, Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute

Recruiting graduate students and postdoctoral fellows

Research interests

The research projects in my laboratory have the long-term goal of developing improved therapeutic strategies for breast cancer based on a precision medicine approach. We 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.


  • Dr. Wasundara Fernando (postdoctoral fellow)
  • Dr. Jaganathan Venkatesh (postdoctoral fellow)
  • Dr. Raj Pranap Arun (postdoctoral fellow)
  • Marie-Claire Wasson (graduate student)
  • Olivia Walker (graduate student)
  • Hannah Cahill (graduate student)
  • Meghan McLean (graduate student)
  • Maya MacLean (graduate student)
  • Cheryl Dean (research assistant/lab manager)
  • Lily Coates (undergraduate student)

Selected Publications

  1. McLean ME, MacLean M, Cahill HF, Arun RP, Walker OL, Wasson MCD, Fernando W, Venkatesh J, Marcato P (2023) The expanding role of cancer stem cell marker ALDH1A3 in cancer and beyond, Cancers 15(2): (492)
  2. Fernando W, Rowter D, Arun RP, Venkatesh J, Marcato P (2022) Isolation of putative cancer stem cells from cultured breast cancer cells and xenografted breast tumors based on increased aldehyde dehydrogenase activity. Methods Cell Biol. 171:111-125
  3. Arun RP, Cahill HF, Marcato P (2022) Breast cancer subtype-specific miRNAs: Networks, impacts, and the potential for intervention. Biomedicines 10(3), 651.
  4. Fernando W, Coyle KM, Marcato P (2022) Breast cancer xenograft murine models. Methods Mol Biol. 2508:31-44
  5. Walker OL, Dahn ML, Coombs MR, Marcato P. (2022) The Prostaglandin E2 Pathway and Breast Cancer Stem Cells: Evidence of Increased Signaling and Potential Targeting. Front Oncol
  6. Dahn ML, Walsh HR, Dean CA, Giacomantonio MA, Fernando W, Murphy JP, Walker OL, Wasson MCD, Gujar S, Pinto DM, Marcato P (2022) Metabolite profiling reveals a connection between aldehyde dehydrogenase 1A3 and GABA metabolism in breast cancer metastasis. Metabolomics 18(1):9 doi: 10.1007/s11306-021-01864-6
  7. Dahn ML and Marcato P (2021) Chapter 10: In vivo genome-wide pooled RNAi screens in cancer cells to identify determinants of chemotherapy/drug response, Methods Mol Biol. 2021;2381:189-200. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-1740-3_10.
  8. Wasson M-CDBrown JMVenkatesh JFernando WMarcato P (2021) Datasets exploring putative lncRNA-miRNA-mRNA axes in breast cancer cell lines Data Brief 37:107241  *co-first 
  9. Cruickshank BM*, Wasson M-CD*Brown JMFernando WVenkatesh JWalker OLMorales-Quintanilla FDahn MLVidovic DDean CA, Van Iderstine C, Bedard K, Dellaire G, Marcato P(2021) LncRNA PART1 promotes proliferation and migration, is associated with cancer stem cells, and alters the miRNA landscape in triple-negative breast cancer. Cancers 13(11):2644. doi: 10.3390/cancers13112644    *co-first
  10. Alwithenani A, Bedard K, Bethune D, Castonguay M, Drucker A, Flowerdew G,  Forsythe ML, French D, Fris J, Greer W, Henteleff H, MacNeil M, Marignani PA, Morzyci W, Mujoomdar A, Plourde M, Snow S, Marcato P#, Xu Z# (2021) Profiling targeted driver mutations with PD-L1 expression in non-small cell lung cancer reveals associations with EGFR mutations and invasive disease. PLOS One 16(5):e0251080. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0251080.     #co-corresponding
  11. Sultan M, Nearing JT, Brown JM, Huynh TT, Cruickshank BM, Lamoureaux E, Vidovic D, Dahn ML, Fernando W, Giacomantonio CA, Langille MGI, Marcato P (2021). An in vivo genome-wide shRNA screen identifies BCL6 as a targetable paclitaxel resistance mediator in breast cancer. Mol Oncol. 15(8):2046-2064. doi: 10.1002/1878-0261.12964. 
    Featured cover article for August 2021 issue 
  12. Venkatesh JWasson M-CDBrown JMFernando WMarcato P (2021) LncRNA-miRNA axes in breast cancer: novel points of interaction for strategic attack Cancer Letters. 509:81-89. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2021.04.002.
  13. Brown JMWasson MCD*, Marcato P (2021) Triple-negative breast cancer and the COVID-19 pandemic: clinical management perspectives and potential consequences of infection. Cancers 13(2): *co-first 
  14. Dahn MLDean CAJo DBCoyle KMMarcato P (2021). Human-specific GAPDH RT-qPCR is an accurate and sensitive method of xenograft metastasis quantification. Mol Ther – Meth Clin D 20: 398-408.  doi:
  15. Dahn ML and Marcato P (2021) Targeting the roots of recurrence: new strategies for eliminating therapy-resistant breast cancer stem cells. Cancers 13(1): 54
  16. Bharadwaj AG, Dahn ML, Liu R, Colp P, Thomas L, Holloway RW, Marignani P, Godbout R, Too C, Barnes P, Marcato P, Waisman D (2020). S100A10 Has a Critical Regulatory Function in Mammary Tumor Growth and Metastasis: Insights Using MMTV-PyMT Oncomice and Clinical Patient Sample Analysis. Cancers. 12(12): 3673
  17. Brown JM*Wasson MC*Marcato P (2020) The missing lnc: The potential of targeting triple-negative breastcancer and cancer stem cells by inhibiting long non-coding RNAs. Cells 9(3), 763;   *co-first
  18. Dahn MLCruickshank BMJackson ADean C, Holloway R, Hall S, Coyle KM, Maillet H, Waisman DM, Goralski K, Giacomantonio CA, Weaver IC, Marcato P (2020) Decitabine response in breast cancer requires efficient drug processing and is not limited by multidrug resistance.  Mol Cancer Ther  doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-19-0745
  19. Vidovic DHuynh TT, Konda P, DeanCASultan MCruickshank BCoyleKM, Gujar SA, MarcatoP (2020) ALDH1A3-regulated long non-coding RNA NRAD1 is a potential novel target for triple-negative breast tumors and cancer stem cells. Cell Death Diff 27(1):363-378. doi: 10.1038/s41418-019-0362-1.
  20. Fernando W, Coyle KMarcato P, Rupasinghe HPV, Hoskin DW (2019) Phloridzin docosahexaenoate, a novel fatty acid ester of a plant polyphenol, inhibits mammary carcinoma cell metastasis. Cancer Let 28(465):68-81. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2019.08.015. 
  21. Walsh HRCruickshank BMBrown JMMarcato P (2019) The Flick of a Switch: Conferring Survival Advantage to Breast Cancer Stem Cells Through Metabolic Plasticity. Front Oncol
  22. Huynh TT*Sultan M*Vidovic DDean CACruickshank BM, Loung C-Y, Holloway RW, Lee K, Hoskin DW, Waisman DM, Weaver IC#, Marcato P# (2019) Retinoic acid and arsenic trioxide induce lasting differentiation and demethylation of target genes in APL cells. Sci Rep   9(1):9414              *co-first, # co-corresponding. 
  23. Almasi S, Sterea A, Clements DR, Fernando W, Marcato P, Hoskin D, Gujar SA, El Hiani, Y (2019) TRPM2 ion channel promotes gastric cancer migration, invasion and tumor growth through the AKT signaling pathway. Sci Rep. 9(1):4182. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-40330-1.
  24. Sharif T, Dai C, Martell E, Ghassemi-Rad S, Hanes MR, Murphy, JP, Kennedy BE, Giacomantonio C, Marcato P, Singh SK, Gujar SA. (2019) Tumor suppressor TAp73 modifies glutamine metabolism and positively regulates growth of cancer stem-like cells in a redox-sensitive manner. Clin Can Res 25(6):2001-2017
  25. Coyle KMDean CAThomas MLVidovic D, Giacomantonio CA, Helyer L, Marcato P (2018) DNA methylation predicts the response of triple-negative breast cancers to all-trans retinoic acid.Cancers 10(11):397.
  26. Holloway RW, Thomas ML, Cohen A, Marcato P, Marignani P, and Waisman DM. (2018) Regulation of cell surface protease receptor S100A10 by retinoic acid therapy in acute promyelocytic leukemia. Cell Death Dis. 9(9):920. doi: 10.1038/s41419-018-0954-6
  27. Puttini S, Plaisance I, Barile L, Cervio E, Milano G, Marcato P, Pedranzzini T, Vassalli G (2018) ALDH1A3 is the key isoform that contributes to aldehyde dehydrogenase activity and affects in vitro proliferation in cardiac atrial appendage progenitor cells.Front Cardiovasc Med doi: 10.3389/fcvm.2018.00090 
  28. Thomas ML and Marcato P. (2018) Epigenetic Modifications as Biomarkers of Tumor Development, Therapy Response, and Recurrence Across the Cancer Care Continuum. Cancers10.3390/cancers10040101
  29. Cruickshank BM, Giacomantonio M, Marcato P, McFarland S, Pol J, Gujar S. (2018) Dying to be Noticed: Epigenetic Regulation of Immunogenic Cell Death for Cancer Immunotherapy. FrontImmunol.
  30. Sultan MVidovic DPaine ASHuynh TTCoyle KMThomas MLCruickshank BMDean CA, Clements DR, Kim Y, Lee K, Gujar SA, Weaver IC, Marcato P (2018) Epigenetic silencing of TAP1 in Aldefluor+ breast cancer stem cells contributes to their enhanced immune evasion. Stem Cells doi: 10.1002/stem.2780
  31. Coyle KMMaxwell SThomas MLMarcato P (2017) Profiling of the transcriptional response to all-trans retinoic acid in breast cancer cells reveals RARE-independent mechanisms of gene expression. Sci Rep 10.1038/s41598-017-16687-6. 
  32. Coyle KM, Boudreau J, Marcato P (2017) Genetic mutations and epigenetic modifications: Driving cancer and informing precision medicine. Biomed Res Int 2017:9620870. doi: 10.1155/2017/9620870.
  33. Sultan MCoyle KMVidovic DThomas, ML, Gujar S, Marcato P. (2017) Hide-and-seek: the interplay between cancer stem cells and the immune system. Carcinogenesis. 38(2):107-118.  
  34. Thomas ML, De Antueno R, Coyle KMSultan MCruickshank B, Giacomantonio M, Giacomantonio CA, Duncan R, Marcato P. (2016) Citral reduces breast tumour growth by inhibiting cancer stem cell marker ALDH1A3. Mol. Oncol.10(9):1485-1496
  35. Coyle KM, Murphy P, Vidovic DDean CASultan M, Clements D, Wallace MVaghar-Kashani AThomas ML, Giacomantonio CA, Helyer L, Gujar S, Lee PWK, Weaver I, Marcato P. (2016) Breast cancer subtype dictates DNA methylation and ALDH1A3-mediated expression of tumor suppressor RARRES1. Oncotarget. 7(28):44096-112. 
  36. Sharif T, Ahn D-G, Liu R-Z, Pringle E, Nunokawa A, Kwak M, Clements D, Martell E, Murphy P, Dean CA, Marcato P, McCormick C, Godbout R, Gujar SA, Lee PWK. (2016) The NAD+ salvage pathway modulates cancer cell viability via p73. Cell Death Diff. 23(4):669-80.