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  • Dr. Francesca Di Cara, PhD


Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Department of Pediatrics, Dalhousie University

Research Interests:

Peroxisomes, Innate immunity, Immunometabolism, cancer metabolism, Lipid signaling, Stem cells proliferation, Intestinal epithelium integrity and Homeostasis, host pathogens/commensals interaction

Cancer cells often alter metabolism to support their malignant phenotype. Despite the advances in research connecting metabolism and cancer, we still do not know how these metabolic changes happen in a cell, and how they trigger and support malignant phenotypes. Multiple lines of evidence show that the peroxisome, an organelle which breaks down fats and other chemicals in the cell, can tune a cell’s metabolism to support or stop from becoming cancerous. This finding is very important because it reveals a previously unexplored fundamental player in the cell machinery that regulates tumorigeneis. My laboratory uses Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit flies, to study peroxisomes and their role in intestinal cancer. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is a good model system as their genes can be easily manipulated. Also, Drosophila have the same genes related to cancer formation (oncogenes) and inhibition (tumor suppressors), as found in humans. For these reasons the fly has been used to study the mechanisms that induce different cancer in humans, in particular colon cancer.

What brought you to your current institution? 
I moved to Dalhousie to start-up my first research team as Principal investigator.

Hometown: Naples, Italy

Learn more about my research:

Involvement with BHCRI to date:

Dr. Di Cara is an Associate Member and Supervisor of CRTP trainees





Room K8522, 8th Floor Immunol Research IWK Health Centre 5850/5980 University Avenue Halifax, NS B3K 6R8


Di Cara F., Rachubinski R.A. and Simmonds A.J.* (2018) “Functional characterization of Peroxin5 and Peroxin7 in Drosophila melanogaster” (in press. Genetics manuscript number Genetic/2018/301157). 

Di Cara F., Margret Bülow, Simmonds A.J. and Rachubinski R.A. (2018) “Dysfunctional peroxisomes compromise gut structure and host defense by increased cell death and Tor-dependent autophagy Molecular Biology of the Cell Vol. 29, No. 22

Di Cara F. , Sheshachalam A., Braverman N.E., Rachubinski R.A. and Simmonds A.J. “Peroxisome-Mediated Metabolism Is Required for Immune Response to Microbial Infection”, Immunity (2017), Immunity. 2017 Jul 18;47(1):93-106.e7. 

Di Cara F and King-Jones K. “The Circadian Clock Is a Key Driver of Steroid Hormone Production in Drosophila” Current Biology 26, 2469–2477 September 26, 2016 
See accompanying Dispatch 2016 Sep 26;26(18): R855-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.07.068

Di Cara F, Maile M T, Parsons D B, Magico A, Basu S, Tapon N, and King-Jones K. (2015) “The Hippo pathway promotes cell survival in response to chemical stress” Cell Death Differ. 2015 Sep;22(9):1526-39. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2015.10.

Di Cara F. Peroxisomes: The current understanding. PostdDoc Journal
Vol. 1, No. 11, November 2013 ISSN : 2328-9791.

Di Cara F, Duca E, Dunbar D, Cagney G and Heck MMS. (2013). Invadolysin, a conserved lipid droplet-associated protease interacts with mitochondrial ATP synthase to modulate mitochondrial metabolism in Drosophila. J Cell Sci. 2013 Oct 15;126 (Pt 20):4769-81

Di Cara F and King-Jones K. “How Clocks and Hormones Act in Concert to Control the Timing of Insect Development” (2013). Review-Current Topics in Developmental Biology: Developmental Timing, edited by Ann Rougvie and Michael O’Connor  2013;105:1-36.

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