TBCRU logo

Translational Breast Cancer Research Studentships, 2013-2014

Yonathan Araya

Yonathan Araya is a PhD student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the supervision of Dr. Timothy Scholl.  Yonathan is currently investigating the uptake, penetration, homogeneity, and distribution of serum albumin in breast cancer tumours.  The albumin-SPARC (secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine)-glycoprotein 60 pathway has been shown as a marker for angiogenic blood vessels in breast cancer tumours. Using a novel magnetic resonance field-cycling imaging method, called delta relaxation-enhanced magnetic resonance (dreMR), and the targetable contrast agent Albavar, he proposes to evaluate albumin trafficking to improve the early detection capabilities of aggressive breast cancer phenotypes.  dreMR imaging will improve current clinical limitations for protein based MR imaging.

 

Alexandra Blake

Alexandra Blake is an MSc student in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, under the supervision of Dr. Moshmi Bhattacharya. My project focuses on determining how the G protein coupled receptor KISS1R, cross talks with growth factor receptors, to regulate breast cancer progression and metastasis. Using a multidisciplinary approach, we will dissect the mechanisms by which this occurs.

Niamh Coughlan

Niamh Coughlan is a PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry working under the supervision of Dr. Joseph Torchia. She is studying the p/CIP/CARM1 coactivator complex in estrogen-dependent gene regulation in an attempt to clarify the role of the oncogene p/CIP in estrogen-dependent breast cancers. By identifying key target genes of the complex, and understanding the mechanism that regulates them, the hope is to develop new therapeutic strategies, leading to more effective treatment for p/CIP-overexpressing breast cancers.

 

Christine Di Cresce

Christine Di Cresce is a PhD-candidate with the Department of Microbiology and Immunology under the supervision of Dr. J Koropatnick. Gemcitabine is an anticancer drug used in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. Thymidine kinase 2 (TK2) is an enzyme that may decrease the effectiveness of gemcitabine chemotherapy. This project focuses on: (1) determining whether TK2 levels in breast cancer can be used to predict response to gemcitabine treatment, and (2) determining if targeting TK2 can improve gemcitabine effectiveness. Ultimately, results from this study could aid in improving personalized care and therapy effectiveness for breast cancer patients.

 

Stephanie Dorman

Stephanie Dorman is a PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry, under the supervision of Dr. Peter Rogan. Her lab has recently proposed that there is a set of stable genes that are not mutated and remain unchanged in 90% of breast cancer tumours, some of which are targets of routine chemotherapy agents. She hopes to use this stable genes set to identify specific clinical tests that can be used to predict chemotherapy resistance based on the genetics of the breast cancer tumour being treated. Metastatic breast cancer patients have a median survival of approximately 2 years and would greatly benefit from the development of a consistent test and/or guideline to select the chemotherapy agents that will most likely be successful.

 

Omar El-Sherif

Omar El-Sherif is a PhD student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the supervision of Dr. Stewart Gaede. Their work focuses specifically on left-sided breast cancer radiation therapy treatment planning. In the case of left-sided breast cancer radiation treatment, the motion of the heart caused by respiration can lead to significant heart irradiation during treatment. Radiation-induced toxicity of the heart may lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease later in a patient's life. Their research goal is to develop radiation therapy treatment plans that incorporate each patient's specific breathing pattern in an attempt to minimize radiation to the heart.

 

Jeff Gaudet

 

Jeff Gaudet is an MSc student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the supervision of Dr. Paula Foster. I will be working on using MRI to track the effectiveness of using cell-based therapies to generate an immune system response to breast cancer cells. The cells will be tracked using iron nanoparticles in a mouse model.

Cameron Goertzen

Cameron Goertzen is an MSc student in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, under the supervision of Dr. Moshmi Bhattacharya. We are studying how KISS1R stimulates breast cancer cell migration and invasion, processes required for the metastatic spread of breast cancer cells. KISS1R generally functions in an anti-metastatic capacity in numerous other cancers. We will determine whether KISS1R stimulates metastasis and the mechanisms by which this occurs. These studies may identify the KISS1R signaling pathway as a target for preventing breast cancer metastasis.


Asma Hasan

Asma Hasan is an MSc student in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, under the supervision of Dr. Peeyush K. Lala. MicroRNAs are small regulatory RNAs which are emerging as biomarkers for cancer. Her project dissects the mechanisms of how two COX-2 induced microRNAs can regulate breast cancer progression and metastasis.

Alexandra Hauser-Kawaguchi

Alexandra Hauser-Kawaguchi is an MSc student in the Department of Chemistry, under the supervision of Dr. Leonard Luyt. The protein, RHAMM, initiates and promotes breast cancer; high RHAMM expression is associated with poor prognostic outcome, metastases, and relapse of the disease. Our objective is to improve the capability and efficiency of targeting RHAMM by placing multiple copies of the RHAMM-binding target peptide onto a nanoparticle, and then monitoring where the nanoparticle goes in the body by using imaging. Therefore, by developing the targeting agent and monitoring its activity, the ability to target RHAMM can be observed and evaluated, resulting in a non-invasive and earlier detection of breast cancer.

 

Ivan Kosik

Ivan Kosik is an MSc student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the supervision of Dr. Jeffrey Carson.  Photoacoustic imaging uses safe-wavelength laser light to generate ultrasonic signals encoded with a broad range of information about the subject of interest. The development of an hand-held photoacoustic imaging system capable of decoding the ultrasonic data in real time to generate images of the volume of interest, holds the potential to significantly enhance the information pool used to classify abnormalities as malignant or benign.

 

Milica Krstic

Milica Krstic is an MSc student in the Department of Pathology, under the supervision of Dr. Alan Tuck and Dr. Ann Chambers. She is conducting research to test the ability of TBX3 to induce “malignant conversion” of breast cancer cells, and will identify the genes it regulates in doing so. She will also measure levels of TBX3 in premalignant vs. early stage invasive breast lesions. This work will help to determine if TBX3 can predict which premalignant lesions of the breast are most likely to invade (requiring more aggressive treatment), as well as to potentially identify new targets for breast cancer therapy, hence preventing metastasis.

Xuguang Liu

Xuguang Liu is a PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry, under the supervision of Dr. Shawn Li. His project focuses on using engineered SH2 monobodies to inhibit specific ErbB signaling pathways. Extremely high activity of ErbB protein and subsequent abnormal signaling pathways is a main cause of HER2 breast cancer. In Li lab, the natural ErbB binding partner SH2 is engineered to create an ErbB superbinder, and preliminary work reveals the potential to further modify this superbinder to block specific regions in ErbB protein coupling with cancer-relevant signaling pathways.

 

Matthew Lowerison

Matthew Lowerison is an MSc student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the co-supervision of Drs. James Lacefield and Ann Chambers. He is interested in the effectiveness of Doppler ultrasound as a method to evaluate breast cancer therapy and patient outcome. Treatments that inhibit tumor-induced angiogenesis, effectively starving a breast cancer of blood and nutrients, have been shown to be clinically effective but difficult to evaluate. To this end, he is working on a Doppler blood flow map to distinguish successful from unsuccessful treatments at an earlier stage, thereby sparing a patient both critical time and exposure to drug side effects.

 

Mousumi Majumder

Mousumi Majumder, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Fellow working under the supervision of Dr.P.K.Lala in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, U.W.O. She is conducting research on understanding how “stem like cells”, responsible for breast cancer perpetuation and relapse after traditional therapy, are induced and maintained by an inflammation-associated enzyme cyclo-oxygenase-2 and how this process can be stopped with simple drugs. She discovered two small molecules known as microRNAs as candidate stem cell biomarkers that will help to personalize therapy, and monitor disease status after therapy. This discovery raises new hope for eradication of breast cancer.

 

Donna Murrell

Donna Murrell is an MSc student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the supervision of Dr. Paula Foster. Her project involves the use of advanced MRI techniques to study the permeability of the BBB (blood-brain-barrier) in breast cancer metastasis to the brain. It is thought that impermeability of the BBB hinders the delivery of therapeutic agents to brain tumours and causes many chemo and molecular treatment options to be ineffective. By identifying what influences metastatic tumour growth and permeability in the brain, the hope is to advance the development of treatments for brain tumours.

 

Matthew Piaseczny

Matthew Piaseczny is an MSc student in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, under the supervision of Dr. Alison Allan. Our lab has identified a small subset of breast cancer cells (ALDHhi CD44+ phenotype) that share human stem cell-like characteristics, which may be involved in promoting therapy resistance and enhanced spread to the lung. I am interested in determining why these subsets of cells prefer spreading to the lung over other areas of the body and whether or not this reflects a property of the breast cancer cells themselves, the lung environment or possibly a combination of both. These studies have the potential for identifying key factors involved in promoting organ-specific spread and therapy resistance, allowing for the development of future therapies.

 

Gracie Pio

Gracie Pio is an MSc student in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology under the supervision of Dr. Alison Allan. Breast cancer patient deaths are mostly due to the ability of cancer cells to spread from the breast to other organs in the body. My project is investigating what causes breast cancer cells to spread to bone, since this process takes place in many breast cancer patients and often causes bone pain, broken bones, numbness and paralysis. Additionally, this project is investigating what kind of cancer cells can spread to bone – breast cancer research suggests that a certain type of cells within a tumor (called “cancer stem cells”) have the ability to spread to different organs and make new tumors. This project aims to determine what causes specific breast cancer cells to spread to bone and could contribute to finding a cure for the spread of breast cancer cells to bone.

 

Avery Raess

Avery Raess is an MSc student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the supervision of Dr. Jeffrey J.L. Carson. My research aim is to make fast, accurate detection of breast cancer accessible by combining autofluorescence and photoacoustic imaging. Our goal is to make a dual imaging system that can be used in the operating room to give feedback to surgeons when they are removing breast tumours.

 

Gabrielle Siegers

Gabrielle Siegers, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Scholar working under the supervision of Dr. Lynne-Marie Postovit in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the Schulich School of Medicine, Western University. Gamma delta T cells (GDTc) are white blood cells that kill infected or cancerous cells and while higher GDTc counts typically correlate with better survival of cancer patients, some pro-tumor properties of GDTc found within tumors have been reported. An embryonic protein whose expression correlates with poor patient outcome, Nodal is produced by breast tumor cells and may play a role in changes that GDTc undergo when they reach the tumor site. Our study of Nodal and GDTc in the context of breast cancer will improve GDTc breast cancer therapies and deepen our understanding of Nodal’s role in breast tumor progression, thereby enhancing patient survival.

Michael Stewart

Michael Stewart is a PhD student in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, under the supervision of Dr. Dale W. Laird. His project focuses on three channel forming proteins: connexin43 and connexin26 allow the direct passage of small molecules between contacting cells, while pannexin1 allows molecules to move between the internal and external environment of cells. These proteins have been reported to act as tumor suppressors and/or proto-oncogenes in cancer onset but their role in the progression of the disease, particularly during the metastatic process, remains poorly understood. We are currently developing genetically-modified breast cancer mouse models with reduced or ablated expression of these large pore forming molecules, where both breast tumor onset and progression into metastatic disease can be assessed in a unifying system. Results from our studies may lead to the establishment of connexins and pannexins as potential therapeutic targets.

 

Camilla Urbaniak

Camilla Urbaniak is a PhD student in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, working under the supervision of Dr. Gregor Reid. The bacteria that are naturally found in our bodies have been shown to play an important role in many diseases that have been on the rise in the last 20 years. We believe that the same holds true for breast cancer and that certain bacteria may promote cancer while others may prevent it. By identifying and isolating the bacteria found in cancerous and non-cancerous breast tissue and breast exudates, we will have a better understanding of the mechanisms by which bacteria can influence breast cancer.

Tahereh Vakili

Tahereh Vakili is an MSc student in the Department of Biochemistry, under the supervision of Dr. Eva Turley. Recent experiments in the lab have identified a new type of tumor cells that may be responsible for the re-growth and spread of tumors following chemotherapy. She is interested to study whether some clinically routine chemotherapeutic regiments that have been proven to kill breast cancer cells have the ability to attack and eliminate these newly identified tumor cells. This study can be beneficial for designing new therapies that prevent disease recurrence and prolong patient survival.

 

Ran Wei

Ran Wei is a PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry, under the supervision of Dr. Shawn Li. 25% of breast cancer patients show abnormal degradation of tumor suppressor Numb protein, and this group patients have a higher probability of developing aggressive breast tumors. Moreover, the levels of oncogenic HER2 protein correlate negatively with Numb levels in HER2+ breast cancers. The aim of Ran’s project is to develop and optimize peptide inhibitors to prevent Numb degradation in HER2+ breast cancers.

 

Philip Wong

Philip Wong is an MSc student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the supervision of Dr. Jeffrey J.L. Carson. Dynamic contrast enhanced (DCE) MRI is the conventional method used to diagnose between benign and malignant breast tumours in high-risk patients. It involves the analysis of the time evolution of a signal from a contrast agent and is capable of providing insight into the blood flow dynamics and physiology of the tumour. The aim of this project is to examine the feasibility of a previously developed 3D photoacoustic imaging system for dynamic contrast methods, which carries high potential in optimizing the time, cost, safety, and efficiency of breast cancer examinations.

 

Ying Xia

Ying Xia, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Scholar working under the supervision of Dr. Alison Allan in the London Regional Cancer Program. She will work on the role of insoluble factors such as extracellular matrix (ECM) components in mediating the lung-specific metastatic behavior of breast cancer cells. This study will help us understand the interactions between cancer cells (the “seeds”) and the lung (the “soil”) in the body, determine if these cells show a particular preference for migration and growth in the lung; and help to identify specific molecular factors that contribute to this. By doing so, we hope to gain a greater understanding the mechanisms by which breast cancer spreads to and grows in the lung. This knowledge could provide new targets for treatment of metastatic breast cancer, which may lead to a reduction of breast cancer related deaths in Canada in the future.

 

Nilougar Zarghami

Niloufar Zarghami is an MSc student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the supervision of Dr. Eugene Wong. The incidence of brain metastases in breast cancer patients is rising, and it signifies a need for better therapeutic tactics. Radiation therapy has been a cornerstone for multiple brain metastases. Her project focuses on radiobiological effects on brain metastases. She is investigating the responses of these metastases to different radiation dose levels in the mouse model. The outcome will yield information valuable for radiation dose prescription in breast cancer patients diagnosed with brain metastases.

 

 

 

 

LHSCResearch & Training

Last Updated December 11, 2013 | © 2007, LHSC, London Ontario Canada