Our People
Awardees

 

 

Hassaan Ahmed Donna Murrell
Di Chen Teresa Peart
Mike Cohen Mauricio Rodriguez
Stefanie De Jesus Matt Rytelewski
Christine Di Cresce Gabrielle Siegers
Dylan Dieters-Castator Leo Siu
Stephanie Dorman Mike Stewart
Sallie Elhayek Kundan Thind
Malek Hannouf Jessica Tong
Tim Hrinivich Mia Tritter
Michael Jewer Camilla Urbaniak
Saman Maleki Vareki Ilma Xhaferllari
Spencer Martin Timothy Yeung
Nevin McVicar Stephanie Zukowski


 

Hassaan AhmedHassaan Ahmed

Hassaan Ahmed

completed his undergraduate degree in Biopharmaceutical sciences (Medicinal Chemistry specialization) from the University of Ottawa. He then switched fields and obtained his M.Sc. in Medical Biophysics from The University of Western Ontario under the supervision of Dr. Grace Parraga. His project involved the use of a novel MRI imaging method to quantify and evaluate lung disease. In 2009, he was awarded the prestigious Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) Research Trainee Prize for his work evaluating Cystic Fibrosis at their global meeting.
He is currently pursuing his PhD in medical biophysics under the supervision of Dr. Ting Lee. His current research interests involved using focused ultrasound to non-invasively increase drug delivery across the blood-brain-barrier, and into targeted regions of the brain. Dr. Lee’s lab has pioneered the use of the combination of dynamic CT imaging methods with pharmacokinetic models, to accurately quantify parameters of the microvasculature including surface permeability, blood flow, and blood volume. I am currently using these endpoints to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of focused ultrasound on pre-clinical healthy and tumor models.


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Di ChenDi Chen

 

Di Chen

completed her masters training in Immunology in 2008. My current training activities are mainly focused on immunoloy and gene silencing. I started my PhD training under the supervision of Dr. Weiping Min in the Deptartment of Pathology at the University of Western Ontario in January 2009. I will work on the development of anti-cancer therapy through gene-silencing in vivo. I am engaged in basic and translational immune-based anti-tumor therapy (DC vaccines) that have been used clinically since 1996 but with limited success. Although generating new knowledge is an important part of my program, creating better cancer treatments using that knowledge is critical. My research and training program is dedicated to that treatment goal.

My research interest: Hypoimmune response is a major hurdle for most immune anti-cancer therapies. Indoleamine 2, 3-deoygenase (IDO) is an immunosuppressive molecule that inhibits anti-cancer immunity. We hypothesize that knockdown of IDO using siRNA will enhance dendritic cel (DC)-based immune therapy for breast cancer. My aim in this program: (1) Develop a method to deliver siRNA targeting IDO to DCs (2) Assess how well mobilized CDs with siRNA-silenced IDO inhibit or abrogate the growth of tumour cells in immunocompetent host mice, and (3) If Aim 2 reveals enhanced capacity to inhibit the growth, I will explore the mechanisms underlying anti-cancer immunity mediated by DCs with siRNA-silenced IDO.

Through the Strategic Training Program, I hope to expand my research horizons to include new knowledge and technical skills in pre-clinical cancer research, cancer imaging, anti-cancer therapy and pharmacokinetics - this requires interaction with other trainees and primary investigators across different laboratories. This cross-disciplinary training will be an asset for my future career as a successful cancer researcher.

 

 

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Mike CohenMike Cohen

 

Mike Cohen
has an MSc in Microbiology & Immunology from the University of Western Ontario and he is currently working towards a PhD in the same program under the supervision of Dr. Joe Mymryk. Our lab utilizes the Human Adenovirus E1A oncoprotein as a tool to identify novel cellular regulatory proteins and protein interaction motifs regulating eukaryotic cell survival and gene expression, which are highly relevant to many types of cancers. My current research involves characterizing the interaction between E1A and the members of the Dual-Specificity Tyrosine-Regulated Kinase family (DYRK). We hypothesize that the DYRK family of survival kinases mediate oncogenic transformation by adenovirus and human papillomavirus by altering the cellular gene expression of cancer-related DYRK targets involved in cell survival and proliferation.

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Stefanie De Jesus
Stefanie De Jesus

 

Stefanie De Jesus
completed her BSc in Biology and MA in Kinesiology at the University of Western Ontario. She is working on her PhD under the supervision of Dr. Harry Prapavessis at the Exercise and Health Psychology Laboratory, University of Western Ontario. Her research aims to examine cue-elicited cigarette cravings, and the role of acute exercise and nicotine metabolism on smoking behaviour (smoking topography) and withdrawal symptoms.

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Christine Di Cresce

Christine Di Cresce

Christine Di Cresce
completed her undergraduate education at The University of Western Ontario with an Honours BSc in Pharmacology/Toxicology and Psychology and a post-degree minor in Medical Sciences. She is currently a PhD Candidate with the Department of Microbiology and Immunology under the supervision of Dr. Jim Koropatnick.

Antisense molecules targeting TS sensitize human tumour cell lines (in vitro and in vivo) to the effect TS targeting drugs. Her research project explores the possibility that addition of antisense molecules targeting TKs will further sensitize tumour cell lines to the effects of TS targeting chemotherapeutics. She focuses on: (1) using small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) targeting thymidylate synthase (TS) and thymidine kinases (TKs) to enhance the therapeutic effect of anticancer drugs targeting TS, and (2) analysis (including investigation of RISC complex saturation by RNAi and RNAi sequence preferences) of factors affecting the amount of RNAi required to knock down mRNA targets.

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Dylan Dieters-Castator

Dylan Dieters-Castator

 

Dylan Dieters-Castator
completed his BMSc in Biochemistry and Cell Biology at the University of Western Ontario and is working towards his Master’s  degree in Dr. Lynne-Marie Postovit’s lab.
Research Interests: Nodal is an embryonic protein that regulates cell fate specification and morphogenesis during development. Nodal is normally silenced in adult tissues, but is re-expressed in cancer and is associated with a poor prognosis in melanoma, glioma, prostate cancer and breast cancer. Recent work in our laboratory demonstrated that Nodal is a pivotal regulator of tumour vascularisation in breast cancer, such that it is required for blood vessel recruitment and tumour growth in murine models and is positively correlated with high microvascular density in breast cancer patients. The mechanism by which Nodal regulates tumour vascularisation has not yet been elucidated. Bone Marrow Derived Cells (BMDCs) such as Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) and Epithelial Progenitor Cells (EPCs) incorporate into growing tumours, and significantly enhance neovascularization. Secretion of cytokines and chemokines into the tumour microevironment has been shown to promote the mobilization and activation of these cell types. However, the mechanisms by which tumour cells acquire the ability to initiate this pro-vasulogenic niche are poorly understood. Given our discovery that Nodal regulates breast cancer vascularisation, as well as the morphogenic role that Nodal plays during embryogenesis, we propose that Nodal mediates BMDC recruitment to breast tumours.

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Stephanie Dorman
Stephanie Dorman

Stephanie Dorman
has a BMSc Honors Specialization in Medical Sciences and an HBA Honors Business Administration from the University of Western Ontario. She is currently working towards her PhD under the supervision of Dr. Peter Rogan in the Department of Biochemistry.

Her project involves designing diagnostic DNA probes that are targeted specifically to regions that will be informative for breast cancer patient care. It is now common in breast cancer diagnosis to characterize tumours using genome-wide assessments, establishing which genes have been altered, amplified, or deleted. In addition to genetic irregularities that are commonly tested for, the probe designs will determine the status of stable genetic targets of chemotherapy agents. The breast cancer focused designs provide an opportunity to reduce costs of diagnostic testing while allowing personalized treatment decisions to be made.



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Sallie Elhayek

Sallie Elhayek

Sallie Elhayek
completed her BMSc –Honors Specialization in Medical Cell Biology at the University of Western Ontario. She is currently working towards her M.Sc. under the supervision of Dr. Eva Turley in the Department of Biochemistry.

The receptor for hyaluronan-mediated motility, RHAMM, is an oncogenic protein and a breast cancer susceptibility gene that is highly expressed in many aggressive human tumors. Intracellularly, RHAMM binds to mitotic spindle microtubules through direct interactions with tubulin heterodimers and genetic deletion of RHAMM results in aberrant pole formation and cytokinesis during mitosis. RHAMM’s regulation of mitotic spindle integrity is thought to contribute to tumor progression by promoting genomic instability, but this has not been directly demonstrated. The objective of my work is to shed light on the molecular mechanisms by which RHAMM is localized to the mitotic spindle and to assess if aberrant spindles resulting from deregulated RHAMM expression are sufficient to promote oncogenesis. Elucidating the mechanism by which RHAMM interacts with the mitotic spindle and how it may promote tumorigenesis is essential to ultimately developing RHAMM-targeted cancer therapies for invasive human cancers.

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Malek Hannouf

Malek Hannouf

Malek Hannouf
has a BSc – Honours in Health Services Management from Philadelphia University. He is currently working on his PhD in epidemiology at the University of Western Ontario under the supervision of Dr. Greg Zaric.
Research Interest:
The goal of our research program is to evaluate genetic tests and genomic applications that are in transition from research to clinical and public health practice; specifically, we evaluate genetic tests that involve tumour gene expression profiling, which promises to be an important tool for the management of patients with cancer (e.g. tumour classification, cancer progression, and chemotherapy resistance and sensitivity). The full impact of these innovations will materialize only when they are effectively and flexibly transferred to clinical practice in cancer patients. We develop decision-analytic models to study the efficacy of new genetic tests and genomic applications in cancer patients and estimate their incremental cost effectiveness versus current clinical practices. Our aim is to characterize the appropriate role of these innovations in actual clinical practice. It is hoped that this, in turn may move new cancer diagnostics and therapeutics faster and more cost effectively from bench to bedside; and ultimately to realize the potential of personalized medicine to improve cancer patient outcomes such as survival.

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Tim Hrinivich

Tim Hrinivich

Tim Hrinivich
I am from Port Elgin ON and received a BSc in Medical Physics from Western. I am currently working on my PhD in Medical Biophysics at Western under the co-supervision of Dr. Aaron Fenster and Dr. Eugene Wong.
There are a number of ways to identify lesions in the prostate using medical imaging. Among these, Dynamic Contrast Enhanced (DCE) MR and MR spectroscopy may provide improved contrast between lesion and normal tissue. By comparing patient histology data to imaging data we may attempt to fine tune these techniques and better understand their effectiveness.
Focal prostate brachytherapy involves implanting seeds in the region of the prostate surrounding the lesion to be treated, rather than the entire organ. This technique has the possibility of decreasing damage to healthy prostate tissue while maintaining effective tumour control. Recent developments in 3D transrectal ultrasound (3D TRUS)-guided robotic-assisted needle placement may permit low dose-rate (LDR) permanent seed implant to target the dominant sites of the disease, and be adapted for high dose-rate (HDR) focal prostate brachytherapy, increasing options for clinical utilization.

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Michael Jewer
Michael Jewer

Michael Jewer
attained his BSc Honours Biology with a specialization in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Waterloo.

He is currently a PhD student in the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology in the laboratory of Dr. Lynne-Marie Postovit. His research examines the potential mechanisms through which low oxygen regulates the embryonic morphogen Nodal in poorly metastatic breast cancer.

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Saman Maleki Vareki

Saman Maleki Vareki

Saman Maleki Vareki
received his M.Sc. in Microbiology from the University of Isfahan (Iran). He is currently working on his Ph.D. in the department of Microbiology and Immunology at The University of Western Ontario. Dr. Jim Koropatnick and Dr. Mansour Haeryfar supervise his work.
Cancer cells use multiple strategies to evade the immune system and resist chemotherapy. Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) is an enzyme with immunoregulatory functions: it suppresses anticancer immunity and is commonly upregulated in many human tumours. TS is an enzyme responsible for synthesis of thymidylate: tumour cells are particularly dependent on TS for DNA synthesis and repair and antisense knockdown of TS sensitizes tumour cells to chemotherapy.
He is targeting both IDO and TS in human tumour cells using antisense technology. He is exploring the hypothesis that simultaneous downregulation of IDO in tumour cells and dendritic cells, and downregulation of TS in tumour cells, will enhance antitumour immunity and sensitize tumour cells to chemotherapy to synergistically contribute to cancer therapy. His goal is to explore a new therapeutic paradigm in which combined treatment with antisense drugs and approved chemotherapeutic agents concurrently target IDO and TS to more effectively treat human tumours.

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Spencer Martin

Spencer Martin

Spencer Martin
has a B.Sc. in Medical Physics from the University of Western Ontario (UWO), and is currently a MSc student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, UWO, working under the supervision of Dr. Stewart Gaede and Dr. George Rodrigues.

His project involves applications in computer vision for the assessment and mitigation of inherent three-dimensional geometric uncertainties arising due to image acquisition, reconstruction and segmentation for lung cancer patients treated with current clinical four-dimensional computed tomography (4D-CT) based radiotherapy strategies.  This requires developing a novel software-based image processing and analysis strategy and an improved image segmentation workflow that are jointly capable of superior tumour volume identification through assessment and mitigation of image-based geometric uncertainties in early and advanced stage lung cancer patients prior to radiotherapy treatment planning.  Future implementation of this research in the clinical setting could potentially enhance image segmentation accuracy and integrity allowing enhanced 4D-CT based radiotherapy efficacy, prescription dose escalation and improved patient outcomes.


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Nevin McVicar

Nevin McVicar

Nevin McVicar
has a BSc in Mathematics and Physiology from McGill University. He is currently working on his PhD from The Department of Medical Biophysics at Western, under the supervision of Dr. Rob Bartha.

MRI is arguably one of the most important diagnostic imaging modalities used in modern medicine.  The application of MRI-contrast agents is becoming commonplace in clinical evaluations. MRI contrast agents traditionally enable detection of disease by highlighting anatomical differences in MRI images.  There is an increasing desire to non-invasively highlight abnormal biological and chemical properties of disease (ie. pH, temperature and metabolite concentrations).  MRI contrast agents that generate contrast via the phenomenon known as Chemical Exchange Saturation Transfer (CEST) are able to report pH, temperature and metabolite activity/concentrations under specific conditions. The goal of my PhD is to develop the application of exogenous CEST agents in-vivo.  The London Health Sciences Center (LHSC) is an ideal location for me to conduct my research, as there are several High-Field MRI systems.  I am currently studying disease models using the 7T and 9.4T MRI scanners at Robarts Research Institute.

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Donna Murrell

Donna Murrell

Donna Murrell

completed an honours BSc in Medical Physics and Biophysics at the University of Western Ontario. She is currently in the first year of her MSc studies in the Department of Biophysics, under the supervision of Dr. Paula Foster.
 
There is a current lack of effective therapeutic treatment options for patients diagnosed with brain metastases; even with aggressive treatment, the median survival time is only 4-12 months. This may be partially due to impermeability of the blood-brain-barrier (BBB), which controls delivery of chemo- or molecular therapeutic agents from blood to the brain. Donna's project uses advanced MRI tools to detect and monitor the permeability of the BBB over time in a mouse model of breast cancer metastasis to the brain. The goal is to identify factors causing altered BBB permeability and metastatic tumour growth. In so doing, we hope to advance the development of treatment options for brain tumours.

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Teresa Peart
Teresa Peart

Teresa Peart
holds a BSc Honours Specialization in Cell and Developmental Biology, fromt the University of Western Ontario. She is currently working towards a PhD in Anatomy and Cell Biology, and is supervised by Drs. Trevor Shepherd and Gabriel DiMattia (Translational Ovarian Cancer Research Program).

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most prevalent cancer in women and is considered to be the most lethal of the gynaecologic malignancies. Early stage disease has a 90% cure rate by surgical intervention alone but over 75% of cases are not diagnosed until advanced metastatic stage. This is mainly due to the fact that early events in ovarian cancer pathogenesis remain to be clearly eluciadated. Thus, there is a critical need to identify etiological factors contributing to ovarian cancer pathogenesis. The goals of our translational ovarian cancer research laboratory are to develop novel research models as tools to study the molecular mechanisms regulating ovarian tumorigenesis with a specific emphasis on bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling. Normal ovarian surface epithelial (OSE) cells as well as epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) cells possess an autocrine BMP signalling loop. The ID1 and ID3 genes are direct target genes of BMP4 signalling in EOC cells. ID genes are classified as proto-oncogenes because their overexpression in various different cancers can be associated with a less differentiated phenotype and a higher malignant potential, often indicating a poor prognosis. However, little is known of the functional significance of ID1 and ID3 overexpression in ovarian cancer pathogenesis directly. Utilizing various molecular mechanisms to enhance the BMP signalling pathway directly as well as downstream target genes ID1 and ID3, the goal of my project will be to further elucidate the role of BMP signalling pathway in ovarian cancer pathogenesis.

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Mauricio Rodriguez

Mauricio Rodriguez

Mauricio Rodriguez
is a PhD student in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, under the supervision of Dr. Alison Allan. Metastatic breast cancer cells do not thrive in all organs, but instead show preference for migrating to and growing in specific organs including lymph node, lung, liver, brain, and bone. Our recent studies indicate that breast cancer cells with both high activity of aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) enzyme and high expression of the cell-surface protein CD44 show organ-specific metastatic behaviour in addition to therapy resistance and increased capacity to initiate and sustain tumor growth, making these cells potential prognostic markers and therapeutic targets. My research is focused on establishing the role of ALDH, CD44, and other related tumor cell-derived mechanisms underlying organ-specific metastatic preferences of breast cancer cells.  

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Matt Rytelewski

Matt Rytelewski

Matt Rytelewski

is a PhD student in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, under the supervision of Dr. Koropatnick. His research is focused on targeting DNA repair enzymes using antisense strategies, in combination with anti thymidylate synthase (TS) treatment, to investigate the effects of this therapeutic regimen on human tumour cell survival and growth. Though reduced DNA repair capacity caused by mutations in DNA repair enzymes and transcription factors increases patient susceptibility to disease, clinical data suggests that the presence of these same mutations in cancer cells increases the success of cancer therapy. He will also be exploring the mechanistic details which modulate cancer cell biology in this system, including the possible contribution of the immune system

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Gabrielle Siegers
Gabrielle Siegers

 

Gabrielle Siegers
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.

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Leo SiuLeo Siu

 

Leo Siu
graduated his Mphil in The University of Hong Kong. He is currently a PhD student under the supervision of Dr. Weiping Min in Department of Pathology, University of Western Ontario.

My research interest involves the development of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) based siRNA delivery system for cancer therapy. It has been reported that CNTs gain into the cells by diffusion and we want to exploit this mechanism for siRNA delivery. siRNA can induce specific gene silencing and which is promising for cancer therapy. However, the stability of siRNA is low and it cannot gain into the cells effectively by itself. We aimed to create a CNTs-based delivery vehicle which can protect the siRNA and deliver the siRNA specifically to cancer cells

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Mike Stewart
Mike Stewart

 

Mike Stewart
has a B.M.Sc. and honors in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of Western Ontario. He is currently a PhD student in Physiology under the supervision of Dr. Dale W. Laird.

Decreased connexin levels have been observed in a wide variety of cancers, including breast cancer. As a result, connexins have been proposed to act as tumour suppressors but their role in breast cancer onset, progression and metastasis remains poorly understood. Similarly, pannexins were recently identified to be differentially regulated in the mammary gland and have single membrane channel function not unlike connexin hemichannels.  Importantly, pannexins have been shown to have tumor suppressive properties in gliomas but their role in the mammary gland development, differentiation and tumorigenesis is completely unknown. It is our aim to further our understanding of the role connexins and pannexins in mammary gland differentiation and tumorigenesis.

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Kundan Thind

Kundan Thind

 

Kundan Thind
has a BEng in Electrical and Biomedical engineering from McMaster University. He is currently working towards his PhD in the department of Medical Biophysics, under the supervision of Dr.Giles Santyr.

Hyperpolarized Carbon-13 (HP-13C) Magnetic Resonance Imaging has opened doors towards in vivo real time metabolic imaging. As it is well known that metabolism precedes functional and anatomical changes, this new imaging technique provides an opportunity to study diseases in their earlier stages, thereby increasing the odds for interventional therapy. Substrates such as 13C-Pyruvate (pyr) and 13C-Bicarbonate (bicarb) can be injected to probe the endogenous pool of their respective Carbon-12 isotopes and the metabolites such as 13C-Lactate (lac) and 13C-Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Kundan has been using these substrates to probe metabolism in a Radiation Induced Lung Injury (RILI) model in rat lungs to detect the disease at an earlier stage. Pyr to lac signal strength ratio provides an insight into the respiratory state of the localized region, as lac concentration is known to increase during anaerobic respiration. Furthermore, bicarb to CO2 ratio provides and insight into the localized pH of the region. Probing localized metabolism using these techniques could also provide an opportunity for feedback to alter the radiotherapy plan to reduce RILI in addition to interventional therapy.

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Jessica Tong

Jessica Tong

 

Jessica Tong
completed her undergraduate degree in Life Sciences at McMaster University and her MSc from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UWO.  She is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology.  Her research is exploring the use of oncolytic viruses for the treatment of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC).  Certain viruses show distinct preference for infecting highly proliferative cells with genetic and cellular defects that are hallmarks of EOC.  Importantly these defects and features are unique to cancer cells.  She is investigating viruses that demonstrate specificity for common cellular alterations found in EOC and assessing their capacity for killing cancer cells isolated from a diverse spectrum ovarian cancer patients.  Due to interpatient variability she is assessing many viruses, each targeting different cellular abnormalities, to treat a broad patient population in a personalized way.  Some of these cellular abnormalities are also markers of chemotherapeutic resistant disease.  Therefore she is exploring viruses as an alternative treatment for chemotherapeutic disease.  Moreover, she is determining whether viruses in combination with chemotherapeutic agents can act to sensitize EOC tumour cells to chemotherapeutics.

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Mia Tritter
Mia Tritter
Mia Tritter

completed her BA in Kinesiology at the University of Western Ontario. She is commencing her Master’s degree under the supervision of Dr. Harry Prapavessis and will be conducting her research in the Exercise & Health Psychology Laboratory at the University of Western Ontario. Her research aims to examine the effects of acute exercise on nicotine craving and withdrawal symptoms in smokers who have been abstinent while using Nicotine Replacement Therapy.

 

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Camilla Urbaniak
Camilla Urbaniak

Camilla Urbaniak
According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the leading cancer in women worldwide and the number of deaths is expected to rise over the next 20 years.  For many other diseases, including some cancers, the bacteria naturally found in the body have been shown to play an important role, whether in progression or in risk reduction of disease.  To date, whilst bacteria have been detected in breast milk, none have been investigated for their presence or activity in cancer patients. Following investigation of breast tissue by microbial culture and DNA sequencing, we are the first group, to our knowledge, to show that microbes are indeed present in the mammary tissues of cancer patients. Isolated strains were found to have the ability to induce mutations and form carcinogenic compounds, factors that promote cancer development. This is not evidence of cause-and-effect, but it raises important questions as to how bacterial pathogens reach the tissues, what they are doing there, and whether they might be involved in cancer.  In parallel studies, we have identified bacterial strains from human milk and shown that some can break down carcinogenic nitrosamines formed by pathogens. In women who breast feed, the risk of cancer is significantly reduced, and perhaps constituents of the microbiome play a role in this risk reduction. The next phase of our research will further develop our case for ‘harmful’ and potentially ‘beneficial’ bacteria being involved in the breast, and explore strategies, such as probiotics or antibiotics, aimed at reducing breast cancer risk.

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Ilma Xhaferllari

Ilma Xhaferllari

Ilma Xhaferllari
completed her BSc in Physics and High Technology through the University of Windsor. She is currently working towards her PhD degree through the department of Medical Biophysics under the supervision of Dr. Stewart Gaede.

Respiratory motion is a large source of dosimetric error when treating stage 1 non small cell lung cancer tumours with  radiotherapy. When treating patients with Intensity Modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), this motion is susceptible to the interplay effect, which is the independent motion of the multi-leaf collimator (MLC) used to modulate the radiation beam intensity, and the target volume. This is especially important in Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) where fewer treatment fractions are delivered (<6) compared to conventional techniques (>30), leading to less opportunity of interplay effect to average out over the course of treatment. Respiratory gating, where the beam  is only turned on when the patients are in exhalation phase, is one method to reduce the interplay effect. Currently, respiratory gating is only possible with fixed beam and not for Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT) at LRCP.  The latest linear accelerator from Varian Medical Systems, TrueBeam, makes gating possible with VMAT. The goal of this research is to determine optimal gating and planning parameters needed for respiratory gated IMRT and to investigate dosimetric effect of respiratory motion on gated IMRT delivery.

Respiratory gating has the potential to reduce normal tissue toxicity without compromising tumour coverage. In turn, this will result in potential dose escalation which will improve tumour control and overall survival.

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Timothy Yeung

Timothy Yeung

 

Timothy Yeung
graduated from the Radiation Therapy Program that is jointly offered by the University of Toronto and The Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences. He is currently a PhD student in the Department of Medical Biophysics and working under the supervision of Drs. Slav Yartsev and Glenn Bauman. He also collaborates closely with Dr. Ting-Yim Lee.

His research investigates the application of dynamic contrast-enhanced computed tomography (DCE-CT) and positron emission tomography (PET) in brain cancer radiation herapy. We aim to identify biologically significant tumour sub-volumes based on imaging of brain tumour metabolism (using positron emission tomography, PET), tumour perfusion (using dynamic contrast-enhanced CT, DCE-CT), and tumour hypoxia (PET + DCE-CT) by correlating the volumes with sites of eventual tumour relapse in the brain after conventional radiation therapy. By doing so, we hope to gain insight as to whether functional imaging (PET and/or DCE-CT) can provide clinically important information that could improve radiation treatment for patients with malignant glioma.

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Stephanie Zukowski

Stephanie Zukowski

 

 

Stephanie Zukowski

has a BMSc Honors Specialization in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from The University of Western Ontario and is currently working towards her MSc in Biochemistry under the supervision of Dr. David W. Litchfield.

The prospective project that she will be undertaking encompasses an investigation of the relationship between protein kinase CK2 (formally casein kinase 2) and its involvement in regulating the process of apoptosis in cancer cells.  CK2 is a constitutively active serine/threonine protein kinase and the upregulation of CK2 in cancer cells has been shown to promote cancer cell survival by modulating apoptotic machinery.  Specifically, apoptotic cysteine-dependent aspartate-directed proteases, known as caspases, are directly regulated by CK2 phosphorylation and secondarily; CK2 phosphorylates downstream targets of caspase cleavage.  Notably, evidence has accumulated that CK2 phosphorylation of serine/threonine residues in caspase recognition sites may prevent caspase cleavage required for the progression of apoptosis.  The remarkable similarity between the consensus sequence for CK2 phosphorylation and recognition motifs for caspase cleavage suggests that CK2 may play a more prominent role in apoptosis than previously considered. The significance of this discovery invites further research to identify targets of caspase cleavage that are negatively regulated by increased levels of CK2 in cancer cells.  This research will elucidate the relationship between CK2 phosphorylation and caspase activity and will then translate the findings to identify cancer cells susceptible to inhibition of CK2.

 


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