Lisa Decotret knows firsthand the destructive effects of cancer, she is a childhood cancer survivor herself. Decotret was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was 13 and received treatment at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. After beating cancer, she decided to give back to the medical community by pursuing studies in cancer research.
“I’ve always wanted to do research about childhood cancer,” says Decotret. “I’m determined to work towards developing better pediatric medicine.” Decotret is a UBC PhD student at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute under the supervision of Dr. Catherine Pallen.
Currently, Decotret is piloting a study on Invadopodia or ‘invasive feet’ — microscopic lumps on a cell membrane. Although the process is not yet completely understood, there is evidence Invadopodia play a key role in helping cancer cells invade other cell tissues, the leading cause of death in cancer patients. In particular, she is studying how the protein tyrosine phosphatase alpha (PTPa) affects Invadopodia, and if treatments that target this protein could be used to stop the spread of cancer.
“This is work that the Pallen Research Team has been building on for years,” says Decotret. “By better understanding the function of PTPa in Invadopodia, we may be able to stop Invadopodia from spreading cancer to healthy cells.”
Recently, Decotret’s research about the role of PTPa on Invadopodia has earned her the 2017 Michael Cuccione Childhood Cancer Foundation Graduate Studentship, the funds of which go to support her work.
Decotret’s research mainly focuses on the protein's role in glioblastoma, a common type of brain tumor that accounts for 20% of all cancers in children. Typically children with glioblastoma need brain surgery and high-dose radiation therapy due to the aggressive nature of the tumor. She hopes that her research into PTPa will provide new insight into stopping the spread of glioblastoma so that other children can beat cancer and grow up to be healthy adults like she did.