Marietta Harrison's Story

Marietta Harrison
Associate Vice President for Research
Director, Oncological Sciences Center
Associate Director, Purdue Center for Cancer Research
Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

We may never find a magical medical pill that cures all types of cancer, but Marietta Harrison says that recent advances are broadening the horizon for personalized medicine.

The age of personalized medicine has arrived. One day soon, a person’s genetic makeup may be able to help doctors better detect some cancers and prescribe individual, more affordable treatments, broadening the horizon for personalized medicine.

“It’s exciting to be part of a research revolution, especially in the field of cancer research,” Harrison says, “because we now know that one size does not fit all.”

Harrison is playing a key role in how cancer is driving the personalized medicine movement. She helps lead a team of more than 50 scientists, engineers, clinicians, statisticians and health-service researchers in Indiana who are dedicated to finding clues in blood and tissue that will indicate who will get cancer, when it will start and what treatment will be most effective.

“What we really want to do is to prevent cancer from developing in the first place. But until we can do that, we need to develop tools to search for signs when tumors are still too little to see,” she says.

During the early 1980s, she helped lead a team at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle that discovered the protein tyrosine kinase Lck, a significant finding for helping understand how cancer develops.