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Autophagy & Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Cancer

Metastasis is the deadliest aspect of human cancer. Metastasis in the multi-step process by which cancer cells escape the confines of the primary site (such as breast, pancreas or other organs) and travel in the circulation to distant sites (such as brain, liver or lungs) where they can lodge, invade and grow out as secondary tumors or metastases.

Many factors play into cancer metastasis including how disseminating tumor cells respond to stresses such as nutrient deprivation and altered cellular attachments. These stresses are known to activate a process known as autophagy and research in the Macleod Lab seeks to understand and clarify the role of autophagy in tumor growth and progression to metastasis. In particular, we are interested in understanding how defects in the turnover of mitochondria (the energy factory of the cell) by autophagy, leads to tumor invasion and metastasis.

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Probing the link between autophagy
and cancer progression to metastasis
Autophagy promotes focal adhesion
turnover and tumor cell invasion
Imaging tumor growth in real time Examining how mitophagy maintains
healthy mitochondria and prevents disease
Targeting mitochondria to treat cancer

January 2018

New paper out: “Autophagy, Cancer Stem Cells & Drug Resistance. (In Press, The Journal of Pathology).

December 2018

Having acted as consultants in the summer during the early stages of the production of their play, the Macleod Lab attends performance of “Scientific Method” at Rivendell Theater in Chicago. Dr. Macleod was a member of a panel taking questions from the audience afterwards. The play explores the issues women face in science from unconscious bias to more overt harassment. A timely topic and while the scientific workplace is markedly improved over the past 20 years, there is still room for improvements! Bravo Rivendell!

“Amy, a hotshot scientist at an elite U.S. cancer research lab, is moments from publishing data that could revolutionize the field. When she’s scooped by a senior scientist from a co

mpeting lab, she first questions her own ability to compete in her chosen field. But as new information comes to light, Amy must face the possibility of willful sabotage by a powerful male colleague.

The Scientific Method is a witty and complex behind-the-scenes look at women in the sciences—and the sometimes almost imperceptible struggle many women face to keep moving forward on the rocky terrain of an uneven playing field.”

November 2018

Ginger, Katie and friends from Y-Me who support our breast cancer research join us in the lab to see how we work.

Also in November 2018, Dr. Macleod is AWIS Chicago Scientist of the month!

November SOTM: Kay Macleod

September 2018

Grazyna Bozek joins the lab as senior research professional and lab manager!

Welcome Grazyna!

August 2018

Macleod Lab participate in the annual Y-Me softball tournament to raise money for breast cancer research.

May 2018

Former Macleod Lab trainee, Ben Spike PhD, makes a return visit to give a seminar. Ben is now an Assistant Professor in the Dept Oncological Sciences, University of Utah. Well done Ben on your career successes so far!

April 2018

Dr. Macleod speaks at the annual AACR meeting in a session on “Autophagy & Cancer Therapy”. Listen to her talk here:

October 2017

Dr. Macleod is Keynote Speaker at the Vancouver Autophagy Symposium.

April 2017

Macleod Lab attends the March for Science – April 22nd Earth Day. Joined by thousands.

November 2016

Chicago Cubs win the MLB World Series after a 98 year drought!  Congratulations Cubbies!

October 2016

Yoshinori Ohsumi wins 2016 Nobel prize in Physiology/Medicine for his pioneering work on the genetics and mechanisms of Autophagy!

Dr. Macleod’s reaction quoted by New York Times.

September 2016

We publish a new review on “Autophagy and Cancer Metastasis” in Oncogene.

Download it here:

June 2016

June 10th 2016 – Marina Sharifi, Michelle Beaton, Aparajita Hoskote Chourasia, Lauren Drake, Erin Mowers are officially granted their Ph.D. degrees at the annual Divisional Academic Ceremony.

Dr. Kay Macleod is the student selected Faculty Marshall at the annual Divisional Academic Ceremony.

May 2016

Our paper “Autophagy promotes focal adhesion disassembly and cell motility of metastatic tumor cells through the direct interaction of paxillin with LC3” is published on-line in Cell Reports.

Erin successfully defends her Ph.D. thesis! Congrats Erin!

 April 2016

Maya presents her data at AACR in New Orleans.

Lauren successfully defends her Ph.D. thesis! Congrats Lauren!

March 2016

Dr. Macleod presents our work at the Banbury meeting on “Autophagy & Cancer”

 February 2016

Aparajita successfully defends her Ph.D. thesis! Congrats Aparajita!

January 2016

Dr. Macleod gives a talk at the Sanford-Burnham-Prebys Medical Discovery Institute entitled: “Autophagy and mitochondrial dysfunction in tumor progression and metastasis”.

December 2015

Dr. Macleod is quoted in a piece in Nature Methods on how to measure autophagy:

Dr. Macleod gives a talk at the Simon Cancer Center, Indiana University on “Autophagy in Cell Migration and Metastasis”.

November 2015

ANSWER CANCER fund-raising video for the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center:

October 2015

Dr. Macleod talks to 5th-8th graders at Ashburn Elementary School about Breast Cancer and self-awareness, as part of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Our work gets reported in SCIENCELife!

Dr. Macleod is the Keynote Speaker at a symposium on “Mechanisms of Metastasis” at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah.  Her talk was entitled ” Control of Cell Migration and Metastasis by Autophagy”

 September 2015

Dr. Macleod attends the Banbury Center meeting on “Mitochondria and Cancer” at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories.

New publication: “Tumor Suppressor Functions of BNip3 and Mitophagy” Autophagy (2015).

 August 2015

Annual Y-Me Softball tournament at St Christina Fields in Mount Greenwood Park to raise money for breast cancer research ongoing in our lab!

 July 2015

Dr. Macleod presents our research at the Cell symposium on “Multifaceted Mitochondria” in Chicago (July 19-21). Her talk is entitled “BNIP3-dependent mitophagy in liver metabolism and nutrient responses”

“Mitophagy defects arising from BNip3 loss promote tumor progression to metastasis” Chourasia et al. Accepted into press at EMBO Reports.

Dr. Macleod meets with representatives of the Y-Me charity that supports some of her research.

See more at:

Michelle Beaton successfully defends her Ph.D. thesis (July 2nd). Congratulations, Michelle!

 April 2015

Dr. Macleod chairs and presents our research at a major symposium on “Autophagy & Cancer” at the Annual Meeting of the AACR in Philadelphia.

March 2015

Two new publications:

“Mitophagy & Cancer” Aparajita H. Chourasia, Michelle L. Boland & Kay F. Macleod. Cancer & Metabolism 3 (4) (2015).

“Measuring autophagy in stressed cells” M.N. Sharifi, E.E. Mowers, L.E. Drake & K. F. Macleod. In “Stress Responses”, Methods in Molecular Biology, vol. 1292, pp129-150, chapter 10 (2015). Ed. Christine E Oslowski. ISBN 978-1-4939-2521-6.  Humana Press, Springer Publishing Group.