Research Summary

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Anatomy, with appointments also in the Department of Pathology and the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. My laboratory focuses on understanding how scavenging pathways such as autophagy and the lysosome - a degradative organelle - enables metabolic and cellular adaptation to stress and contributes to aggressive features of disease. Beyond mediating degradation of diverse macromolecules, the lysosome also plays an important role in signal transduction, cellular quality control, metabolism and detoxification.

My lab has a particular interest in how the lysosome contributes to cancer pathogenesis with a focus on studying pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA). our work has identified novel mechanisms mediating constitutive activation of lysosome biogenesis via coordinated transcriptional upregulation of lysosome transcriptional signatures in PDA and in normal physiological contexts. We have also discovered a new role for autophagy and the lysosome in facilitating immune evasion of PDA cells through selective capture and degradation of Major Histocompatibility Complex Class I (MHC-I). Our ongoing research leverages our combined experience in cellular trafficking, autophagy and lysosome function combined with in vitro and in vivo model systems, organelle isolation and mass spectrometry based proteomics to determine critical roles of the lysosome in cancer progression and metastasis, tumor heterogeneity, stress adaptation and drug resistance.

Research Funding

  • April 1, 2021 - March 31, 2026 - Targeting the autophagy-lysosome system to block pancreatic cancer , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01CA251726
  • April 1, 2021 - March 31, 2026 - Dissecting new mechanisms of lysosome quality control in health and disease , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01CA260249
  • September 3, 2020 - May 31, 2025 - Identifying Molecular Drivers of Cellular Plasticity in Pancreatic Cancer , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01CA240603
  • September 30, 2016 - May 31, 2021 - Tracking tumor evolution through in vivo organelle profiling , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: DP2CA216364


University of Melbourne, Australia, BSc, 1999, Pathology/ Biochemistry
University of Melbourne and Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, BSc, 2000, Cancer Biology
University of Melbourne and Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, PhD, 2007, Cancer Biology
Yale University, postdoctoral, 2008, Cell Biology
MGH Cancer Center, postdoctoral, 2013, Cancer Biology
MGH Cancer Center, Instructor, 2015, Cancer Biology

Honors & Awards

  • 2001
    John and Allan Gilmour Award, The University of Melbourne, Australia
  • 2001
    RJ Fletcher Award, The University of Melbourne, Australia
  • 2002-2004
    Melbourne Research Scholarship, The University of Melbourne, Australia
  • 2005
    Student commendation for outstanding achievement during PhD, (money prize)
  • 2010-2011
    ECOR Fund for Medical Discovery Fellowship, MGH Cancer Center
  • 2011-2012
    Dana Faber Cancer Institute/HCC GI SPORE Career Development Award
  • 2014
    Office for Research Career Development, MGH – Research Fellow Award
  • 2014-2015
    Andrew L. Warshaw Institute for Pancreatic Cancer Research Fellow Award
  • 2015
    American Association for Cancer Research NextGen STAR
  • 2014-2016
    Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Seed Grant Recipient
  • 2016-2018
    AACR-Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Career Development Award
  • 2016-2021
    NIH Director’s New Innovator Award
  • 2016-2020
    Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award

Selected Publications

  1. Yang X, Wen J, Yang H, Jones IR, Zhu X, Liu W, Li B, Clelland CD, Luo W, Wong MY, Ren X, Cui X, Song M, Liu H, Chen C, Eng N, Ravichandran M, Sun Y, Lee D, Van Buren E, Jiang MZ, Chan CSY, Ye CJ, Perera RM, Gan L, Li Y, Shen Y. Functional characterization of Alzheimer's disease genetic variants in microglia. Nat Genet. 2023 Sep 21.  View on PubMed
  2. Zoncu R, Perera RM. Emerging roles of the MiT/TFE factors in cancer. Trends Cancer. 2023 Oct; 9(10):817-827.  View on PubMed
  3. Ravichandran M, Hu J, Cai C, Ward NP, Venida A, Foakes C, Kuljanin M, Yang A, Hennessey CJ, Yang Y, Desousa BR, Rademaker G, Staes AAL, Cakir Z, Jain IH, Aguirre AJ, Mancias JD, Shen Y, DeNicola GM, Perera RM. Coordinated Transcriptional and Catabolic Programs Support Iron-Dependent Adaptation to RAS-MAPK Pathway Inhibition in Pancreatic Cancer. Cancer Discov. 2022 09 02; 12(9):2198-2219.  View on PubMed
  4. Shin HR, Citron YR, Wang L, Tribouillard L, Goul CS, Stipp R, Sugasawa Y, Jain A, Samson N, Lim CY, Davis OB, Castaneda-Carpio D, Qian M, Nomura DK, Perera RM, Park E, Covey DF, Laplante M, Evers AS, Zoncu R. Lysosomal GPCR-like protein LYCHOS signals cholesterol sufficiency to mTORC1. Science. 2022 09 16; 377(6612):1290-1298.  View on PubMed
  5. Hernandez GA, Perera RM. Autophagy in cancer cell remodeling and quality control. Mol Cell. 2022 04 21; 82(8):1514-1527.  View on PubMed
  6. Zoncu R, Perera RM. Built to last: lysosome remodeling and repair in health and disease. Trends Cell Biol. 2022 07; 32(7):597-610.  View on PubMed
  7. Akkari L, Finley SD, Ho PC, Jenkins M, Maier BB, McGranahan N, Mutebi M, Perera RM, Robles-Espinoza CD, Vardhana S, Wan L, Xu MM. Challenges and opportunities in 2021. Nat Cancer. 2021 12; 2(12):1278-1283.  View on PubMed
  8. Perera RM. Zooming in on the cell biology of disease. Mol Biol Cell. 2021 12 01; 32(22):ae4.  View on PubMed
  9. Klionsky DJ, Petroni G, Amaravadi RK, Baehrecke EH, Ballabio A, Boya P, Bravo-San Pedro JM, Cadwell K, Cecconi F, Choi AMK, Choi ME, Chu CT, Codogno P, Colombo MI, Cuervo AM, Deretic V, Dikic I, Elazar Z, Eskelinen EL, Fimia GM, Gewirtz DA, Green DR, Hansen M, Jäättelä M, Johansen T, Juhász G, Karantza V, Kraft C, Kroemer G, Ktistakis NT, Kumar S, Lopez-Otin C, Macleod KF, Madeo F, Martinez J, Meléndez A, Mizushima N, Münz C, Penninger JM, Perera RM, Piacentini M, Reggiori F, Rubinsztein DC, Ryan KM, Sadoshima J, Santambrogio L, Scorrano L, Simon HU, Simon AK, Simonsen A, Stolz A, Tavernarakis N, Tooze SA, Yoshimori T, Yuan J, Yue Z, Zhong Q, Galluzzi L, Pietrocola F. Autophagy in major human diseases. EMBO J. 2021 10 01; 40(19):e108863.  View on PubMed
  10. Kilinc S, Paisner R, Camarda R, Gupta S, Momcilovic O, Kohnz RA, Avsaroglu B, L'Etoile ND, Perera RM, Nomura DK, Goga A. Oncogene-regulated release of extracellular vesicles. Dev Cell. 2021 07 12; 56(13):1989-2006.e6.  View on PubMed
  11. Gupta S, Yano J, Mercier V, Htwe HH, Shin HR, Rademaker G, Cakir Z, Ituarte T, Wen KW, Kim GE, Zoncu R, Roux A, Dawson DW, Perera RM. Lysosomal retargeting of Myoferlin mitigates membrane stress to enable pancreatic cancer growth. Nat Cell Biol. 2021 03; 23(3):232-242.  View on PubMed
  12. Rushika Perera. Lysosomes and Cancer. Innovation in Aging. 2020 Dec 16; 4(Suppl 1):744-744.  View on PubMed
  13. Davis OB, Shin HR, Lim CY, Wu EY, Kukurugya M, Maher CF, Perera RM, Ordonez MP, Zoncu R. NPC1-mTORC1 Signaling Couples Cholesterol Sensing to Organelle Homeostasis and Is a Targetable Pathway in Niemann-Pick Type C. Dev Cell. 2021 02 08; 56(3):260-276.e7.  View on PubMed
  14. Yamamoto K, Venida A, Perera RM, Kimmelman AC. Selective autophagy of MHC-I promotes immune evasion of pancreatic cancer. Autophagy. 2020 08; 16(8):1524-1525.  View on PubMed
  15. Yamamoto K, Venida A, Yano J, Biancur DE, Kakiuchi M, Gupta S, Sohn ASW, Mukhopadhyay S, Lin EY, Parker SJ, Banh RS, Paulo JA, Wen KW, Debnath J, Kim GE, Mancias JD, Fearon DT, Perera RM, Kimmelman AC. Autophagy promotes immune evasion of pancreatic cancer by degrading MHC-I. Nature. 2020 05; 581(7806):100-105.  View on PubMed
  16. Adams CR, Htwe HH, Marsh T, Wang AL, Montoya ML, Subbaraj L, Tward AD, Bardeesy N, Perera RM. Transcriptional control of subtype switching ensures adaptation and growth of pancreatic cancer. Elife. 2019 05 28; 8.  View on PubMed
  17. Venida A, Perera RM. Host Control of Tumor Feeding: Autophagy Holds the Key. Cell Metab. 2019 02 05; 29(2):236-238.  View on PubMed
  18. Rushika Perera. Burnout among emergency physicians working at a large tertiary centre in Ontario. Journal of Wellness. 2019 Jan 1; 1(1):1-4.  View on PubMed
  19. Perera RM, Di Malta C, Ballabio A. MiT/TFE Family of Transcription Factors, Lysosomes, and Cancer. Annu Rev Cancer Biol. 2019 03; 3:203-222.  View on PubMed
  20. Di Malta C, Siciliano D, Calcagni A, Monfregola J, Punzi S, Pastore N, Eastes AN, Davis O, De Cegli R, Zampelli A, Di Giovannantonio LG, Nusco E, Platt N, Guida A, Ogmundsdottir MH, Lanfrancone L, Perera RM, Zoncu R, Pelicci PG, Settembre C, Ballabio A. Transcriptional activation of RagD GTPase controls mTORC1 and promotes cancer growth. Science. 2017 06 16; 356(6343):1188-1192.  View on PubMed

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