Research projects

How can healthy cells contribute to aggressive prostate cancer?

Dr Mariona Graupera
Project period
March 2021 - December 2024
Research Institute
Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute
Cancer types
Award amount

Project aim

Dr Mariona Graupera and her team are trying to understand how a type of healthy cells – called pericytes - contribute to the development of prostate cancer.

Hope for the future

Prostate cancer affects almost 50,000 people each year in the UK. When the cancer is found early, all people diagnosed survive for 5 years or longer. Unfortunately, some types of prostate cancer are more aggressive and when found at a later stage, only half of the people diagnosed survive for 5 years or more.

Dr Graupera and her team are studying healthy cells that are found in and around prostate tumours to understand how these cells contribute to the progression of the disease. The team hopes to find new ways to develop better treatments for aggressive types of prostate cancer.


Meet the scientist

Dr Mariona Graupera is a mother of two children who combines her passion for science with art exhibitions, concerts, and books. When she was postdoc, she lived in the UK for 6 years and enjoyed going to live concerts (“I saw Arcade Fire once when they were not that popular yet in a venue with only 50 people, AMAZING!!!”) and visiting the most incredible art exhibitions shown across all museums in London (“I even became a Tate member”).

The science

Tumours are not entirely made up of cancer cells, but also contain normal cells and structures that can be hijacked by the tumour. Within the immediate environment of the tumour, blood vessels transport oxygen and nutrients to the cancer cells, while also serving as a highway for cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body. Cells that wrap around blood vessels and help them function properly are called pericytes.

Research from Dr Mariona Graupera’s team found that changes in the number and function of these pericytes is associated with a form of aggressive prostate cancer. The team is now trying to find out how exactly pericytes contribute to the progression of prostate cancer by studying them in prostate cancers ranging from mild to aggressive types. Dr Graupera hopes that by better understanding the role pericytes play in prostate cancer development, new treatments can be developed in the future.

I would truly like to thank you all. You allow us to progress in the understanding of cancer biology and identify new therapies to treat cancer. Without your support, cancer research would be very slow, and this would have tremendous impact on the cure and quality of life of patients.
Dr Mariona Graupera

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