The Center for Translational Cancer Research

Mary C. Farach-Carson, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor, Associate Vice Provost for Research, Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, and Adjunct Professor of Bioengineering, Rice University

Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Rice University, MS-140
6100 Main Street
Houston, TX 77251-1892

Phone Number: 
(713) 348-5052
(713) 348-5154

B.S. - University of South Carolina, 1978
Ph.D. - Medical College of Virginia, 1982
Postdoctoral - University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center


Research Interests:

Research in Dr. Farach-Carson's laboratory relates to the role of extracellular matrix in the progression of cancer following metastasis from primary sites, such as prostate or breast, to bone. In many cases, primary tumors are fairly slow growing and do not become life-threatening until they form tumors in bone. The growth factors sequestered in bone matrix provide a very rich environment to promote the growth of cancer cells that invade there. Many of these growth factors are bound to a class of proteoglycans that contain heparan sulfate which regulate their bioactivity. Studies in the laboratory are aimed at identifying and isolating the growth factors responsible for cancer growth and progression with the long term aim of developing "molecular drugs" to combat cancer metastasis. Three dimensional models are used to study the behavior of cancer cells and to test their susceptibility to anti-cancer drugs that reduce cancer growth and progression. Industrial partnerships support the development of novel cancer diagnostics based on the principle that cancer biomarkers are created by cancer growth in bone.

A multidisciplinary project involves the use of proteoglycans, particularly those bearing heparan sulfate chains such as perlecan, in engineering of connective tissues such as bone, cartilage or salivary gland. Cell and molecular engineering strategies are being developed that facilitate controlled tissue growth and differentiation. Growth factor binding and delivery by engineered proteoglycans is being used in oral surgery and orthopaedic applications. Several engineering partnerships both within and outside the university exist to support these studies.

A trainee doing research in this laboratory would be exposed to a variety of techniques including cell culture, recombinant and natural protein purification and analysis, cloning and molecular biology, microRNAs, immunodetection and immunohistochemistry, and various pre-clinical cancer models.