Tracy A. Marko

Tracy Marko


Entering Class: 2010

University of Minnesota
Mechanical Engineering major
B.S., 2009

University of Minnesota
Biomedical Engineering
M.S., 2010

University of Minnesota
Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology Graduate Program
Ph.D., 2016

Honors and Awards:

  • Cancer Biology Training Grant appointee, 2012-13

MSTP Student Governance:

  • Student Advisory Committee 2013-2015, 2016-2018

Hobbies and Interests:

  • Running
  • Tennis
  • Softball
  • Hiking
  • Water skiing
  • Piano (Christmas music!!)

Thesis Advisor: David Largaespada, Ph.D.

Thesis Research

Osteosarcoma (OS) is the most common primary bone tumor and the third leading pediatric cancer. Pulmonary metastases, present in 15% of patients at diagnosis and detected in 30% with localized OS within 2-3 years, confers a long-term survival of only 20-25%. Although most patient deaths are a result of metastases, treatment options were developed for primary tumors and do not address their unique biological characteristics. The genomic instability and subsequent complexity of OS has made it difficult to determine which genetic mutations drive OS development and metastasis. However, using the conditional Sleeping Beauty (SB) transposon mutagenesis system, we recently identified candidate tumor promoting genes in transgenic mice that develop OS. We hypothesize that changing the expression of candidate oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes uniquely found in metastases will alter quantifiable metastatic characteristics in cell lines with varying levels of metastatic potential. This is supported by the idea that metastases are subclones of the primary tumor that developed a phenotype allowing for progression through extravasation and subsequent survival in circulation, intravasation, and colonization. The objectives will be accomplished using well-characterized, minimally metastatic human and murine OS cell lines and their highly metastatic derivatives. Gene expression will be amplified with stably integrated over expression vectors containing cDNA and silenced with transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs). This will bring us closer to accomplishing our long-term goal of identifying targets for adjuvant therapy to improve OS patient survival.


Marko TA, Shamsan GA, Edwards EN, Hazelton PE, Rathe SK, Cornax I, Overn PR, Varshney J, Diessner BJ, Moriarity BS, O'Sullivan MG, Odde DJ, Largaespada DA. Slit-Robo GTPase-Activating Protein 2 as a metastasis suppressor in osteosarcoma. Sci Rep. 2016 Dec 14;6:39059. PMCID: PMC5155223

Marko TA, Diessner BJ, Spector LG. Prevalence of Metastasis at Diagnosis of Osteosarcoma: An International Comparison. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2016 Jun;63(6):1006-11. PMCID: PMC4833631

Publications for work prior to the Program:

Powell TA, Amini R, Oltean A, Barnett VA, Dorfman KD, Segal Y, Barocas VH. Elasticity of the porcine lens capsule as measured by osmotic swelling. J Biomech Eng. 2010 Sep;132(9):091008. doi: 10.1115/1.4002024.