Donita C. Brady, Ph.D.


Donita C. Brady, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Cancer Biology
University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
421 Curie Blvd.
BRBII/III Room 612
City, State, ZIP
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 573-9705
[email protected]
Research field
Cancer Biology
Award year
Pew distinction
Innovation Fund investigator


My research explores the role that copper plays in activating proteins that can drive the formation of tumors. Although metals such as copper, iron, zinc, cobalt, and manganese are essential for human health, their overabundance has been linked to disorders such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s diseases. As a postdoctoral fellow, I discovered that some cancers also rely on copper to thrive: The metal boosts the activity of proteins involved in promoting cell proliferation. Now, I will explore where the excess copper is coming from and how it interacts with proteins to drive cell division. I will also search for other proteins that rely on copper to enhance their activity—particularly those that have been shown to play a role in the development of cancer. These findings could lead to a novel form of anti-cancer therapy based on drugs that can sequester excess copper.

As an Innovation Fund investigator, Donita Brady, Ph.D., is teaming up with Kivanç Birsoy, Ph.D., to identify components in cells that regulate transition metal homeostasis or those that respond to them. Transition metals are key dietary nutrients for living organisms and help proteins function across a variety of cellular activities such as metabolism. Disrupting the processes that ensure proper metal acquisition, storage, and location is associated with disease. The pair will combine expertise from Brady’s work in metallobiology and chemical biology with Birsoy’s research in metabolism and organelle biology to map metal-protein interactions across compartments of the cell and to categorize previously unidentified metabolic pathways that adapt to fluctuations in metal availability. This work will enhance our current understanding of cellular regulation of metals, which is critical in maintaining the delicate balance between metal deficiency and toxicity, preventing disease associated with either extreme.

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