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Paola Betancur

Paola Betancur, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Department of Radiation Oncology

My passions are family, science, and long-distance running.

Meet Dr. Betancur

I’m inspired by how the immune system can be activated to help us fight cancer.

Dr. Betancur’s long-term research goal is to understand the mechanisms encoded in the DNA by which cancerous cells avoid being detected and destroyed by the host’s immune system. Toward this goal, her lab examines the interactions between epigenetic modifiers, transcription factors, and the genomic enhancers of target genes that in response to inflammation abnormally activate the immune escape program within the tumor or damaged cells during aging, after radiation and in response to infectious diseases.
Dr. Betancur received her B.S. degree in Biology from Stony Brook University and her Ph.D. degree in Molecular Cell Biology from Caltech. Then, as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University she studied the transcriptional regulation of CD47 (an immune escape cell-surface protein present in all cells) that provides a “don’t eat me” signal to macrophages, and other immune cells, thus protecting cells from being targeted and cleared by the immune system.


2003 Stony Brook University, New York BS Biology
2010 California Institute of Technology PhD Developmental Cell Biology and Genetics
Professional Experience

Professional Experience

2019-present University of California, San Francisco Assistant Professor Department of Radiation Oncology
2011-2019 Stanford University Postdoctoral Fellow/Instructor Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine
2010-2011 California Institute of Technology Postdoctoral Fellow Department of Developmental and Cell Biology

Recent Significant Publications

Betancur P, Abraham B.J, Yiu Y.Y, Willingham S, Khameneh F, Zarnegar M, Kuo A.H, McKenna K, Kojima Y, Leeper N.J, Ho P, Gip P, Swigut T, Sherwood R, Clarke M.F, Somlo G, Young R.A, Weissman I.L. A CD47-associated Super-enhancer Links Pro-inflammatory Signaling to CD47 Upregulation in Breast Cancer. Nat Comm 8:14802, 2017

Kojima Y, Volkmer J.P, McKenna K, Civelek M, Lusis A.J, Miller C, Direnzo D, Nanda V, Brady S, Connolly A, Schadt E, Quertermous T, Betancur P, Hansson G, Maegdefessel L,Perisic L, Hedin U, Weissman I.L, Leeper N. CD47 Blocking Antibodies Restore Phagocytosis and Prevent Atherosclerosis. Nature 536(7614):86-90, 2016.

Betancur P, Simoes-Costa M, Sauka-Spengler T, Bronner M. Expression and Function of Transcription Factor cMyb During Cranial Neural Crest Development. Mech Dev 132:38-43, 2014.

Betancur P, Sauka-Spengler T, Bronner M. A Sox10 Enhancer Common to the Otic Placode and Neural Crest is Activated by Tissue Specific Paralogs. Development 138(17):3689-98, 2011.

Betancur P, Bronner-Fraser M, Sauka-Spengler T. Assembling Neural Crest Regulatory Circuits into a Gene Regulatory Network. Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol 26:581-603, 2010.

Betancur P, Bronner-Fraser M, Sauka-Spengler T. Genomic Code for Sox10 Activation Reveals a Key Regulatory Enhancer for Cranial Neural Crest. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA (107)8:3570-75, 2010.

Sutton M.A, Ito H.T, Cressy P, Kempf C, Woo J.C, Schuman M.E. Miniature Neurotransmission Stabilizes Synaptic Function Via Tonic Suppression of Local Protein Synthesis. Cell (125)4:785-799, 2006.

Lwigale P.Y, Cressy P.A, Bronner-Fraser M. Corneal Keratocytes Retain Neural Crest Progenitor Cell Properties. Dev Biol 288(1):284-293, 2005.


Isolation of neural crest enhancers that can be used to generate “reporters” that indicate when a cell adopts neural crest traits. Sauka-Spengler T, McKeown S, Betancur P and Bronner-Fraser M. Serial number: 61/203,334; CIT file number: 5293-P. Patent filed (2008).

Redefining Possible