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Donna Dang

Class 2012
Education BS, North Carolina State University

Dr. Rajini Rao

Research Interests

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer mortality in women, where it is estimated at 40,000 deaths and with more than 230,000 new cases diagnosed in the US in 2013. A defining characteristic of breast cancer is the presence of microcalcifications which are radiographic signatures resulting from the excess of unbuffered Ca2+ levels in the cytosol. Ca2+ is a ubiquitous second messenger which drives proliferation, apoptosis, and cell migration. Our lab studies the Secretory Pathway Ca2+-ATPases (SPCA) that localize to the Golgi and vesicular compartments. Previous work in our lab has shown that SPCA2 is upregulated in breast cancer and has the unusual property of activating the Ca2+ channel Orai1, independent of its pump activity. My project centers on the chaperone-like function of SPCA2 in trafficking Orai1 to the plasma membrane and in deciphering a functional link with E-cadherin, a cell-adhesion molecule. I am also interested in the role of SPCA2 and Ca2+ signaling during the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in breast cancer. The regulation of intracellular Ca2+ may offer therapeutic potential in controlling tumor growth and metastasis