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Breast Cancer Society of Canada


Translational Breast Cancer Research Studentships, 2017-2018

Oi Wai Chau

Oi Wai Chau (April) is an MSc student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the supervision of Dr. Stewart Gaede. She is working on assessing the acute cardiac inflammation after left-side breast cancer radiotherapy with hybrid PET/MRI. By correlating the regional radiation dose deposition to the inflammatory reponse and other believed precursors to radiation induced cardiac disease, the results will assist in treatment strategies designed to minimize cardiac damage during radiation therapy of the breast.

Alexandra Hauser-Kawaguchi Alexandra Hauser-Kawaguchi is a PhD student in the Department of Chemistry, under the supervision of Dr. Len Luyt. Receptor for hyaluronan mediated motility (RHAMM) is one of the protein receptors for the carbohydrate, hyaluronan (HA). Cellular RHAMM expression increases in response to cell stress, such as during aggressive breast cancer. The RHAMM-HA interaction results in the activation of downstream pathways that ultimately lead to the activation of genes responsible for breast cancer metastasis. Our goal is to inhibit the normal RHAMM-HA interaction from occurring, and therefore, prevent the activation of genes responsible for cancer progression from occurring. We are developing peptide-based drugs that can mimic either RHAMM or HA, and that bind their respective targets strongly, thereby preventing the protein and ligand from interacting with each other. In doing so, we hope to identify the compounds with the greatest therapeutic potential in treating progressive and aggressive RHAMM-expressing breast cancer.
Sami Khan Sami Khan is an MSc student in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, under the supervision of Dr. Alison Allan. The process by which cancers spread to other organs is known as metastasis, and it accounts for the majority of breast cancer patient deaths as currently available treatments are largely ineffective in the metastatic setting. Recent findings from their lab suggest that the CD44 cell-surface receptor expressed by breast cancer cells may play an important role in promoting metastasis by interacting with organ-specific proteins. Sami’s research is focused on assessing lung-specific ligands for the CD44 receptor as novel targets for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer metastasis.
Bart Kolendowski Bart Kolendowski is a PhD candidate in the Department of Biochemistry, under the supervision of Dr. Torchia.  Bart has been working on characterizing the role of the estrogen receptor in breast cancer to help better understand how therapies like Tamoxifen work, and more importantly, what happens when they fail. Throughout this work Bart has identified new targets that have the potential for therapeutic intervention and is currently testing the feasibility of using these targets to develop a more personalized and targeted form of breast cancer therapy.
Milica Krstic Milica Krstic is a PhD student in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, under the supervision of Dr. Alan Tuck and Dr. Ann Chambers. Her research focuses on mechanisms of breast cancer progression, with a focus on regulation of gene expression by variants of the TBX3 protein. Through the mining of biomarkers by genomic and immunohistochemical methods, Milica has identified up-regulation of particular proteins in tumors of several patients with early stage disease. This information may be used to stratify patients into risk groups, and separate those with indolent lesions from those that have a higher chance of developing deadly cancers. 
Ashley Makela Ashley Makela is a PhD student working under the supervision of Dr. Paula Foster in the Department of Medical Biophysics. We investigate tumour associated macrophages (TAMs), which are cells within the tumour – their presence helps the tumour grow, allows the cancer to spread to other sites in the body (metastasize) and they are associated with a poor prognosis in the majority of breast cancer cases. These cells can be detected and monitored by utilizing high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods along with the use of cell labeling agents. This research may produce important information about the influence of TAMs on tumour growth and metastatic spread and give insight on how to use this information to aid in detection, prognosis and treatment evaluation.
Matthew Mouawad Matthew Mouawad is a PhD Student in the Department of medical biophysics, under the supervision of Dr. Stewart Gaede and Dr. Neil Gelman.  His work will contribute to the continued development of a proposed new treatment plan that aims to treat early stage breast cancer patients with a single fraction of radiation instead of the traditional treatment scheme which occurs over several weeks. This new treatment technique will significantly reduce the emotional burden on patients and increase the quality of life. His portion of the project involves using images acquired from the first hybrid PET/MRI in Canada to assess treatment response to the radiotherapy. This research will lead to the development of tools to help clinicians to tailor treatment regiments to individual patients.
Tomi Nano Tomi Nano is a PhD-MCISc (CAMPEP) student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the supervision of Dr. Ian Cunningham. They are developing novel diagnostic imaging tools, such as high performing x-ray detector designs and methods to accurately quantify and interpret x-ray image quality. Their research helps ensure the benefits of each x-ray procedure outweigh the risks and contribute to patient well-being. Development of high performing x-ray detectors directly impacts women who enroll in mammography screenings, where they have up to 40% reduced risk of death from breast cancer. Mammography sites with high performing x-ray detectors result in higher cancer detection rates and lower patient exposures. We aim to develop an “ideal” x-ray detector which produces x-ray images with twice as much visibility of fine detail and small structures without increasing radiation exposure to patients. New x-ray detector designs that improve image quality result in increased detection rates, which can lead to earlier detection and more effective breast cancer treatment outcomes.
Nivin Nystrom Nivin Nystrom is an MSc student in the Department of Medical Biophysics under the supervision of Dr. Timothy Scholl and Dr. John Ronald. Her work focuses on developing a novel imaging technique for Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC), an aggressive subtype of breast cancer for which no specific treatments are available. The technology is based on a synthetic protein element that allows the otherwise “invisible” cells to appear visible on MRI. The establishment of this system would allow for more accurate testing of candidate drugs for TNBC, thereby generating the data necessary to investigate therapies more seriously. 
Katie Parkins Katie Parkins is a PhD student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the co-supervision of Drs. Paula Foster and John Ronald. Her project involves the use of novel molecular imaging techniques to determine how the presence of a primary breast tumour can inhibit or enhance the development of brain metastases. Understanding the mechanism(s) by which metastatic outgrowth can occur may lead to new therapeutic approaches to enhance dormancy or maintain dormant cancer in a nonproliferative state.
Ashkan Sadri Ashkan Sadri is an MSc student in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, under the supervision of Dr. Alison Allan. Despite rigorous research revolving around the topic, breast cancer still remains a leading cause of cancer-related death amongst Canadian women. The primary factor that causes this is metastasis (the spread of cancer cells from the primary breast tumor to distant organs), since current therapies are largely non-curative in the metastatic setting. Our novel study aims to identify key factors involved in metastasis towards the lung and bone microenvironments, as these particular tissues are clinically important sites of breast cancer dissemination. Recently, we have observed that specific organ microenvironments reduce the ability for breast cancer cells to adhere (stick down) to the cell culture dish, resulting in a distinct “floating” cell population that is still capable of growing. Our further investigations are aimed at determining whether these “floating” cells may have enhanced stem-like and aggressive activity compared to their adherent counterparts. Understanding these intra- and extracellular communications are directly translational to the prevention of metastatic disease related to breast cancer.
Olivia Tong Olivia Tong is an MESc student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, under the supervision of Drs. Jeffrey Carson and Mamadou Diop.  Dr. Carson's group is developing a non-contact scanner that can accurately monitor the blood oxygen level inside the tumours during chemotherapy. She is working on a component of this non-contact scanner that can capture the 3D shape of the breast, and this 3D information is important to form images collected by the other component of the scanner. The results from this project will lead to a new diagnostic method that can quickly identify the most effective chemotherapy drug for each breast cancer patient receiving chemotherapy. 
Lawrence Yip Lawrence Yip is a PhD student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the supervision of Dr. Jeffrey Carson. He is working on developing a photoacoustic imaging system, which is a hybrid system combining the advantages of ultrasound and optical imaging. With this system, he hopes to assist in breast-conserving surgery to more accurately remove tumourous tissue and reduce repeat surgeries.

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Last Updated September 8, 2017 | © 2007, LHSC, London Ontario Canada