Paola Vermeer, PhD, Lab

Primary Research Focus

Dr. Vermeer Bio

The Vermeer lab is focused on identifying signaling pathways that initiate and/or contribute to epithelial tumor formation and progression. Metastatic disease continues to be the major cause of cancer associated death. To date, effective treatments for metastatic disease do not exist because very little regarding the metastatic process is clearly defined. Thus, the Vermeer lab focuses on defining molecular pathways of metastasis and identifying targets to block disease progression and improve survival. The laboratory utilizes a number of different approaches including molecular biology, protein biochemistry, flow cytometry, confocal imaging, and immunohistochemistry. All hypotheses are ultimately tested using in vivo animal models and validated with human samples. The ultimate goals of the lab are to bring new therapies to clinical trial and improve patient survival.

  • Assistant Scientist in the Cancer Biology and Children’s Health Research Centers
  • Assistant professor at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, Department of Surgery
  • Bachelor of Science in biology at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
  • Doctoral degree in developmental neurobiology from the department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY
  • Post-doctoral fellowship at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Iowa, Iowa City

Behind the research

As an epithelial cell biologist, Dr. Vermeer’s research has focused on receptor/ligand interactions and downstream signaling as they pertain to epithelial function and phenotype in health and disease. In the realm of human diseases like cancer, Dr. Vermeer’s attention has concentrated on mechanistically understanding how epithelial tumor cells change not only themselves, but their environment in the process of metastasis. 

Metastatic disease remains the main cause of death in cancer patients with solid tumors. Little is understood about the molecular mechanisms driving the metastatic process. Thus, Dr. Vermeer’s laboratory includes studies of how tumor cells gain an increased migratory capacity. In addition, tumor interactions with immune cells alter immune function and phenotype. By studying these associations, the team aims to define critical tumor-immune communications that contribute to disease progression and metastasis. 

In addition, it is known that tumor cells release exosomes, yet their function in metastasis remains largely undefined. Exosomes may provide long-distance signals that prime target organs to support metastatic growth. By studying exosomes of different epithelial origins we aim to better understand their function as it pertains to metastasis.

Current Projects

Cancer associated proteins and the immune response
Ephrin B1 and the cytoskeleton
Microbiome and immune response
Tumor Innervation
Sympathetic nervous system and cancer
Immune mediated mechanisms of metastasis 

Resources Positions Available
Access Paola Vermeer's publications here.

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Senior Laboratory Techniician

Meet members of the Vermeer lab here.  
Contact Us  
Phone: (605) 312-6110  


Lab News

January 2017 Dr. Paola Vermeer attended the QUILT conference in Santa Cruz, CA. The QUILT program (Quantum Immuno-oncology Lifelong Trial) encompasses immune-modulating chemotherapeutic approaches and is part of Cancer Moonshot 2020.