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PhD Poster Prize

Micka Bertucci

At the Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) 1st Victorian Student Research Symposium, Micka Bertucci (Mitchell Lab) was awarded the best 2nd year PhD poster prize. The symposium was a part of ASMR Medical Research Week 2010 and there were 20 entrants in the 2nd year poster section.

Micka won a ticket to the ASMR Medical Research Week Dinner in the Grand Ballroom at the Hilton on the Park, which included a presentation by the Commonwealth Health Minister's Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Research Featuring ASMR Medallist 2010, Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE. Micka was also awarded a $200 cash prize funded by the Chinese Cancer Society of Victoria.

The title of Micka's poster is "A novel localisation and cellular role for PI(3)P at invadopodia in a human breast cancer cell line".

Micka stated that cancer metastasis is responsible for high levels of mortality and morbidity. The mechanisms behind metastasis involve the secretion of enzymes from actin-rich structures cellular structures, termed invadopodia, that drive invasion via the secretion of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and allow tumours to spread to distal sites of the body. Unpublished novel work by Dr Jenny Dyson in the Mitchell laboratory has identified the PI3Kinase (PI3K) product, PI(3)P, at invadopodia. Micka undertook two approaches to determine the synthesis and mechanism of function of PI(3)P at invadopodia. Firstly, using siRNA mediated knockdown of the candidate PI3K isoforms, Micka identified PI3KC2α as the PI3K isoform responsible for the synthesis of PI(3)P at invadopodia. Secondly, using siRNA mediated knock down she investigated the secretion of MMPs that are required for cell invasion. PIK3C2α knock down resulted in a significant reduction in MMPs secretion, the enzymes that drive cell invasion. Collectively, her studies identify that PI3KC2α has a significant role in the process of cancer metastasis.

Basically, Micka has identified the enzyme responsible for the production of PI(3)P at invasive structures, invadopodia. "By regulating the level of PI(3)P we can reduce the ability of these structures to degrade the surrounding tissue. Therefore this work has strong implications for breast cancer metastasis" Micka said.

Micka studied her Bachelor of Science degree here at Monash University Clayton and went onto do her Honours in the Department of Physiology studying inflammatory markers in intrauterine fetal growth restriction in 2006. She then took time off to work as a research assistant at the Alfred Hospital investigating drug development in cardiac remodelling before returning to study in 2009 doing her PhD in the Biochemistry Department under the supervision of Professor Christina Mitchell and Dr Jennifer Dyson.