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Dr. Sharon M. Gorski, Associate Professor

B.Sc., Biology (honours), Simon Fraser University
M.Sc., Genetics, University of British Columbia
Ph.D., Developmental Biology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, USA

Phone: 604-675-8113
Email: sgorski@bcgsc.ca
Research website

Research Interest

Autophagy (= "self-eating") is a vesicle-mediated cellular process of protein and organelle degradation. Autophagy enables cell survival during nutrient starvation and also plays a role in differentiation, development, tissue remodeling, aging, and autophagic programmed cell death. Recently, the field of autophagy has attracted increased attention because of its association with cancer and other human diseases such as cardiomyopathies, bacterial and viral infections, and neurodegenerative disorders. Autophagy has also been implicated in the cellular response to anti-cancer therapies. However, the role of autophagy in these processes is poorly understood.

Our research program is focused on understanding the role of autophagy in cell death and cell survival, and its implications for cancer development and cancer therapy. In addition, we are interested in investigating the relationships between autophagy and apoptosis. Current research projects are in the following areas:

  • Identifiying and characterizing regulators of apoptosis, autophagy, and autophagic cell death. Projects employ genetics, gene expression, functional genomics, and protein-protein interaction approaches to identify and characterize factors required for cell death and autophagy in the Drosophila model system. Human orthologs of genes discovered in Drosophila will be tested for similar roles in human cell line systems.
  • Exploring the effects of altered autophagy in anti-cancer therapy. To test whether alteration in autophagy levels can affect sensitivity to endocrine therapy, chemotherapy and/or irradiation, an autophagy gene-siRNA based strategy is being employed in human breast and other cancer cell lines. The effects of siRNA-mediated autophagy gene knockdown on cellular signaling pathways are also being explored. In addition, we are developing high throughput assays to screen libraries for autophagy inhibitors and activators.