New veterinary college faculty member seeks to improve cancer diagnostic tools
Priscila Serpa has recently joined the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine as a research assistant professor of clinical pathology.
Serpa is the newest member of the college’s robust research program, which covers disease research, veterinary clinical research, public health research, and more. In its research and instruction, the college utilizes One Health, a transdisciplinary approach that recognizes the interconnected nature of human and animal health.
After earning her doctorate of veterinary medicine, masters of science, and doctorate of science from Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Serpa took a postdoctoral position at Cornell University and completed her residency and a second masters at Purdue University.
Serpa’s research focuses on improving diagnostic tools with an emphasis on oncology.
“My research can directly impact the health of any pet [like dogs, cats, and horses], and maybe even humans in the future, because the sooner we diagnose cancer, the higher the chances of survival,” she said.
Serpa’s research projects use liquid biopsy, the minimally invasive procedure which removes liquid from the body and tests it. In one project, Serpa seeks to utilize liquid biopsy to identify cancer in the beginning of the neoplastic process. Serpa hopes to identify cancer DNA in the blood in order to predict the prognosis of the patient and evaluate the best chemotherapeutic protocol.
In another project, Serpa uses matrix assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight (MALDI-TOF) equipment to attempt to identify the unique “fingerprint” of tumoral cells so that they can be identified in blood samples in leukemias and late-stage lymphomas or during metastasis.
“Dr. Serpa’s experience will allow her to develop valuable collaborations among clinicians and basic scientists. In addition to her research experience, she is an excellent diagnostician, and has an interest in new test development, which will expand ViTALS testing capacity in the clinical pathology section. She is an enthusiastic and engaging speaker, and the students in clinical rotations will love her teaching style,” said Tanya LeRoith, clinical professor of anatomic pathology and director of ViTALS, the college’s on-site interdisciplinary diagnostic laboratory.
“We are so excited that Dr. Serpa has joined our department. She brings an added level of expertise to our clinical research program that will energize our applied research activity. Her interest in cancer diagnostics will certainly complement ViTALS and their ability to serve our veterinary clients and the Animal Cancer Care and Research Center,” said Margie Lee, head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology.
Written by Sarah Boudreau M.F.A. '21, a writer with the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine