Translational Breast Cancer Research Trainee Studentships, 2010 - 2011
Navid Baktash is an MSc student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, working under the supervision of Dr. John Lewis. Metastasis is the cause of 90% of cancer mortalities, which results in the ability of cancer cells to recruit vasculature and migrate. EGFL7 (epidermal growth factor like 7) is a protein that has been shown to be involved with poor patient outcome and expressed by a number of metastatic breast cancer cell lines, making it a potential therapeutic target. The goal of Navid’s project is to understand the role of EGFL7 in the metastasis of breast cancer cells.
Jennifer Chitilian is an MSc student in the Department of Biochemistry, working under the supervision of Dr. Joe Torchia. p/CIP is a protein important for regulating gene expression and is often overproduced in breast and ovarian cancers as a result of increased copy number. p/CIP has also been shown to contribute to both the initiation and progression of mammary gland tumourigenesis. Cancer cells and embryonic stem (ES) cells exhibit similar growth properties, and genes important during early embryonic growth and development are often deregulated in cancer. Analysis of p/CIP function in ES cells may provide important insights into its ability to promote breast cancer and may identify new diagnostic and prognostic markers suitable for therapeutic intervention in p/CIP-overexpressing breast cancers.
Choi-Fong Cho is an PhD student in the Department of Medical Biophysics working under the supervision of
Dr. John Lewis. Her project involves studying how non-invasive imaging using nanotechnology should permit detection of early breast cancer before metastasis can occur. Her aim is to construct "smart nanoparticles" that home to the new blood vessels that form around early tumours. She hopes to use these as imaging agents both to diagnose early cancer and to enhance treatment.
Jenny Chu is an MSc student in the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, working under the supervision of Dr. Alison Allan. She is interested in the role of a specific type of breast cancer cell, the tumor-initiating cell (TIC), in breast cancer metastasis. She is investigating the interactions between TICs and different organs in the body to determine if these cells prefer one organ over another for secondary metastatic tumor formation. Her aim is to further the understanding of the metastatic process in order to identify new potential treatment targets
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.
Donna Cvetkovic is an MSc. student in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, working under the supervision of Dr. Moshmi Bhattacharya. Preliminary findings in the Bhattacharya Lab have demonstrated for the first time that kisspeptin-10 (Kp-10), the most potent kisspeptin, stimulates the migration and invasion of human breast cancer MDA-MB-231 and Hs578T cells (that endogenously express G-protein coupled receptor 54 (GPR54)) by transactivating the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). The purpose of the project will be to determine whether 1) depletion of GPR54 in breast cancer cells inhibits metastasis in vivo and 2) expression of GPR54 promotes tumorigenicity of non-malignant cells.
Michael Lizardo is a PhD student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, working under the supervision of Drs. Ann Chambers and Ian MacDonald. Michael is developing multi-platform approaches in studying animal models of lymph node metastasis in breast cancer. These include flow intravital fluorescence videomicroscopy, flow cytometry and laser scanning cytometry. These techniques will then be used to ask questions about the underlying biology that contributes to a cancer cell's ability to spread to the lymph nodes and how single disseminated tumor cells form clinically relevant metastases.
Irene Ma is an MSc student in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, working under the supervision of Dr. Alison Allan. She is investigating the functional role of two proteins called aldehyde dehydrogenase and CD44, which are markers of highly aggressive breast cancers, by over-expressing these two proteins in breast cancer cells that are normally known to not metastasize. The goal is to determine whether or not the newly engineered breast cancer cells will have the same behaviour as the highly aggressive breast cancer cells, which could ultimately lead to the discovery of new therapeutic targets for drug development in the future.
Jenn MacLean is a PhD student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, working under the supervision of Drs. Ann Chambers and Ian MacDonald. Jenn’s research expands on a phenomenon known as ‘concomitant tumor resistance’ where a primary tumor is capable of restricting the development of secondary metastases. Specifically, she will investigate the effect of a growing breast primary tumor on the growth of secondary metastases and determine the effect of individual metastasis promoting and suppressing proteins on the establishment of breast cancer metastases.
Phil Medeiros is a PhD student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, working under the supervision of Dr. Dwayne Jackson. Phil is studying the role of the sympathetic nervous system on the progression of breast cancer. Specifically, using novel in vivo and in vitro models he aims to elucidate the deleterious effects of sympathetic neurotransmitters such as Neuropeptide Y in breast cancer.
Jen Mutrie is an MSc student in the Department of Pathology, working under the supervision of Drs. Ann Chambers and Alan Tuck. Jen is investigating the effects of blocking molecular pathways mediated by osteopontin (OPN), a protein that contributes to aggressive cancer cell behaviour and tumor progression. She is interested in how OPN signaling works and which inhibitors will be most effective. This will help increase our understanding of how OPN contributes to cancer spread and may lead to the identification of new therapeutic targets for aggressive breast cancers that express OPN.
Rae-Lynn Nesbitt is an MSc student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, working under the supervision of Dr. John Lewis. She is studying ways to develop targeted non-invasive therapy of breast cancer using “fusogenic liposomes”. Due to chemotherapy’s harmful effects, loading these lethal drugs in a protective packaging that targets tumours would result in a safer administration. This form of a targeted drug transporter will provide clinicians with a powerful tool to treat breast cancer with decreased damaging effects.
Tienabe Nsiama, PhD, is a Postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemistry, working under the supervision of Dr. Len Luyt. Medical imaging scanners are used in conjunction with a special class of pharmaceuticals known as imaging probes which target a biomarker. The objective of the research is to use a combination of amino acids (peptides) to develop peptide-based imaging agents to monitor the evolution of RHAMM, a protein regarded as biomarker during the breast cancer evolution. Further development of these imaging agents could lead to a new noninvasive method as an alternative for the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer.
Nicole Park is an MSc student in the Department of Pathology, working under the supervision of Dr. Joan Knoll. Nicole is examining selective forces in the breast cancer genome to determine if the minimal essential genome encodes proteins that are consistently targets of therapeutic drugs. Conservation of a minimal gene set may explain the effectiveness of certain chemotherapeutic agents due to their actions on multiple gene products in this set.
Emeline Ribot, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Fellow working under the supervision of Dr. Paula Foster in the Imaging Research Laboratories at Robarts Research Institute. The goal of her work is to visualize cancer stem cells by MRI in vivo to determine their fate in the body and their role in brain metastasis formation after a primary breast cancer.
Michael Roumeliotis is a PhD student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, working under the supervision of Dr. Jeffrey Carson. Their 3D photoacoustic imaging system will be implemented to identify tumours as small as 1mm in diameter. As well, the system being developed will be able to define physiological information, such as blood and oxygen content, which is of paramount importance in characterizing the tumour as benign or malignant.
Nisha Sharma is a PhD student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, working under the supervision of Dr. Jeffrey Carson. The goal of her work is to discover the potential of nanomaterials, such as goldnanorods, as a therapy for early stage breast cancer. The basis for the therapy is the photothermal conversion of gold nanorods, which occurs when nanorods are exposed to a bright flash of near infrared laser light, which, by itself, is safe to skin and underlying tissues.
Lesley Souter is a PhD student in the Department of Pathology, working under the supervision of Drs. Ann Chambers and Alan Tuck. Lesley is using a 3D tissue culture system to identify genes and molecules potentially involved in the initial development and progression of invasive disease in the breast.
Wendy Teft , PhD, is a Postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Medicine, Division of Clinical Pharmacology, working under the supervision of Dr. Rickard Kim. The focus of her research is on personalizing tamoxifen therapy for breast cancer patients. To do this they are consenting patients to provide a blood sample for DNA and drug level analysis to determine if tamoxifen is a potentially beneficial therapy for each patient. By providing this information to their oncologists they hope to provide a tailored treatment plan for breast cancer patients.
Elena Tutunea-Fatan is an MSc student in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, working under the supervision of Dr. Peeyush Lala. Her study investigates the modulatory role of the chemokine ligand receptor CCL21/CCR7 axis on breast cancer induced lymphangiogenesis. Her project advances a dual role of the CCL21/CCR7 pair in metastasis, not only by facilitating a directional homing of tumor cells, but also by preparing their future dissemination pathways. Her proposed research is expected to enhance our knowledge on the molecular mechanisms associated with breast cancer dissemination
Fartash Vasefi, PhD, is a Postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Medical Biophysics, working under the supervision of Dr. Jeffery J. L. Carson. His research is focusing on the development and evaluation of a novel spectroscopic imaging technology to assist in characterization and high resolution margin delineation of cancerous tissue during surgery. Fartash hopes the new technology will enable physicians to differentiate between normal and malignant tissue based on their specific optical abnormalities.
Catalina Vasquez is an MSc student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, working under the supervision of Dr. John Lewis. Her project is aimed at having a better understanding of the role of nuclear, cytoplasmic and membrane bound RHAMM protein on cell migration, proliferation and remodeling events in a wound healing environment. This will be addressed using the chorioallantoic membrane wound model of chicken embryos and using confocal microscopy.
Caroline Whiston is an MSc student in the Department of Pathology, working under the supervision of Drs. Ann Chambers & Alan Tuck. Her research focuses on testing strategies to inhibit the effects of the protein osteopontin in breast cancer cells. These approaches may prevent cells from behaving aggressively and spreading to other parts of the body.