Our People
Awardees

 

 

Hassaan Ahmed Mousumi Majumder
Wesley Berube-Janzen Saman Maleki Vareki
Morgan Black Nevin McVicar
Alexandra Blake Donna Murrell
Stefanie De Jesus Matthew Piaseczny
Dylan Dieters-Castator Gracie Pio
Ozkan Doganay Avery Raess
Stephanie Dorman Mauricio Rodriguez
Corby Fink Matt Rytelewski
Steven Gameiro Gabrielle Siegers
Jeff Gaudet Michael Stewart
Cameron Goertzen Caitlin Symonette
Malek Hannouf Michael Thwaites
Asma Hasan Jessica Tong
Tom Hrinivich Mia Tritter
Charles Ishak Camilla Urbaniak
Nathan Johnston Tahereh Vakili
Bart Kolendowski Ilma Xhaferllari
Erin Landman Timothy Yeung


 

Hassaan Ahmed
Hassaan 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 Chen
Wesley Berube-Janzen

 

Wesley Berube-Janzen

completed a BMSc Honors Specialization in Biochemistry and Major in Pharmacology at the University of Western Ontario. She is currently working towards an MSc in the Department of Biochemistry under the supervision of Dr. Caroline Schild-Poulter.

RanBPM, also known as RanBP9, is a multi-domain nucleocytoplasmic protein which has been linked to numerous cellular processes including transcription, cell adhesion, cell migration, and microtubule regulation. However, its exact function remains unknown. Previous work in our lab has shown that RanBPM interacts with the ERK pathway kinase c-Raf and down-regulates c-Raf protein levels to inhibit further pathway signaling. The ERK pathway is often up-regulated in cancer cells, therefore its regulation is critical for normal cellular activity. The focus of my project is to characterize the interaction between RanBPM and c-Raf by identifying which domain(s) of RanBPM are required for the interaction. This is an important step in elucidating a mechanism by which RanBPM destabilizes c-Raf, and may lead to the design of a RanBPM-derived small-molecule c-Raf  inhibitor as a potential cancer therapeutic.

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Mike Cohen
Morgan Black

 

Morgan Black

completed her undergraduate education at The University of Western Ontario with an Honors BMSc in Biochemistry and a minor in Political Science. She is currently a MSc Candidate in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology under the supervision of Dr. Anthony Nichols.

Her project involves performing high throughput drug screens for drug discovery in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). HNSCC is the sixth most common cancer by incidence worldwide with a mortality rate of approximately 50%. As smoking rates continue to decline, the overall rates of HNSCC is also decreasing, however, a subset of cases involving the oropharynx has been found to be increasing. This rise in oropharyngeal cancers has been found to be caused by infection with human papillomavirus (HPV). Patients with HPV-positive HNSCC tend to be younger, healthier and more likely to survive their treatment. Unfortunately, current treatments remain similar for both HPV-positive and HPV-negative HNSCC cases and are usually quite toxic often leaving patients with harsh long-term side effects. Her research aims at providing improved and more personalized treatment for HNSCC patients by correlating genetic alterations in patient tumors with ideal drug treatments to enable personalized treatment of HNSCC.

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A Blake
Alexandra Blake

Alexandra Blake

has a BMSc Honors Specialization in Biochemistry from the University of Western Ontario.  She is currently working towards her MSc under the supervision of Dr. Moshmi Bhattacharya in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology.  Her research 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, she will dissect the mechanisms by which this occurs.

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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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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O Doganay
Ozkan Doganay

Ozkan Doganay

completed his Master’s in Biomedical Physics at Ryerson University. He is currently a PhD Candidate with the Department of Medical Biophysics under the supervision of Dr. Giles Santyr.

He is proposing to develop a specialized MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) method for detection of functional (i.e. gas exchange) abnormalities in lungs associated with thoracic radiation treatment of cancer.  Lung cancer is the largest contributor to mortality worldwide with only 20% of stage III non-small cell lung cancer patients surviving after 5 years. Although radiation therapy is an effective treatment for lung cancer, it is limited by radiation induced lung injury (RILI). Better lung imaging tools are required to detect early RILI in order to improve outcome. Hyperpolarized 129Xe MRI has many applications in imaging of the lung airspace and in diagnosis of lung diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma. In addition to imaging the lung airspace, 129Xe promises to provide unique functional information due to its solubility in pulmonary tissue and red blood cell (RBC), and significant chemical shift on the order of 200ppm. Thus, this new technique is expected to be sensitive to early gas exchange changes accompanying RILI.

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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

Corby Fink

Corby Fink

has a BMSc in Biochemistry of Infection and Immunity from the University of Western Ontario and am currently in the second year of my MSc in Microbiology and Immunology. I am planning to transfer to a PhD program this coming winter under the supervision of Dr. Gregory Dekaban and Dr. Paula Foster in Robarts Research Institute. Our lab focuses on the generation of dendritic cells from monocyte precursors that can be used in anti-tumor cell-based vaccines to present tumor antigen to the immune system. The amount of dendritic cells migrating to the lymph node post-injection is directly proportional to the outcome of the ensuing anti-tumor immune response. Therefore, we hypothesize that a fluorine-based contrast agent known as Cell Sense can label, track and quantify the in vivo migration of these dendritic cells using cellular MRI without affecting their viability, phenotype and migration capacity. This form of cell tracking allows for the effectiveness of dendritic cell-based vaccines to be compared and improved in a non-invasive manner. We are currently in the process of initiating pre-clinical studies that will allow us to conduct cellular MRI studies in prostate cancer patients.

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S Gameiro

Steven Gameiro

Steven Gameiro

completed his undergraduate degree at The University of Western Ontario with an Honors BSc in Medical Sciences and Biology. He is currently a MSc Candidate with the Department of Microbiology and Immunology under the supervision of Dr. Joe Mymryk.

Oral infection with high risk human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for more than 70% of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas (OSCC). Over the last 30 years, the frequency of HPV induced OSCC has been increasing at epidemic rates. In addition to maintaining tumor cell growth, the HPV E7 oncoprotein has been shown to reduce the expression of cellular major histocompatibility complex I (MHC I) by 50-70%. Our lab is focused on elucidating the mechanism by which E7 reduces MHC I expression and defining its role in OSCC. MHC I expression will also be correlated with patient outcomes to determine if it is a marker of poor prognosis. Should HPV status in OSCC be correlated with reduced MHC I expression, future pre-clinical experiments will test the effects of restoring MHC I expression on tumor growth. Elucidating the mechanism by which E7 modulates MHC I expression could aid in identifying novel therapeutic targets directed at HPV positive OSCC and potentially improve patient outcome.

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J Gaudet

Jeff Gaudet

Jeff Gaudet

completed an honours BSc in Biophysics University of Guelph. He is currently in the second year of his MSc studies in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the supervision of Dr. Paula Foster.

Cancer immunotherapy is the use of the immune system to reject cancer. Dendritic cells (DC) are one type of immune cell that are used this way. In DC immunotherapy a patient’s blood is collected to generate DC, which are introduced to the cancer, and then given back to the patient. Upon return to the patient, the DC migrate to the nearby lymph nodes where they interact with other cells that go on to fight the cancer. There are still many questions about DC immunotherapy, such as: where and when should they be injected, and how many DC to inject. The project I am working on involves developing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques that will allow for the tracking of DC in patients. Our goal is to examine DC migration in both clinical and pre-clinical settings. The information we learn will be beneficial to clinicians performing DC immunotherapy in cancer patients.

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Cameron Goertzen

Cameron Goertzen

completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario with a BMSc. -Honors Specialization in Pathology & Toxicology. He is currently working towards his M.Sc. under the supervision of Dr. Moshmi Bhattacharya in the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology.
He is currently 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. He 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.

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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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A Hasan

Asma Hasan

Asma Hasan

completed her BSc (honours) in Biology at the University of Western Ontario. She is currently a MSc student in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology under the supervision of Dr. Peeyush K. Lala. Her project dissects the mechanisms of how COX-2 induced microRNAs (miRNAs) can regulate breast cancer progression and metastasis. MicroRNAs are small regulatory RNAs which are emerging as biomarkers for cancer. Asma is now studying the target of these miRNAs in COX-2 high or low conditions to understand the bidirectional relationship between COX-2 and miRNAs.

Tim Hrinivich

Tom Hrinivich

Tom Hrinivich

is from Port Elgin ON and received a BSc in Medical Physics from Western. He is currently working on his 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
Charles Ishak

Charles Ishak

completed his HBSc with a molecular biology specialist from the University of Toronto in 2011. Currently working towards PhD in the biochemistry department at Western University under the supervision of Dr. Fred Dick. Current project utilizes a gene-targeted mouse model to study the function of the post-G1 pRB-E2F1 complex. Specific objectives focus on chromatin regulatory functions, and identification of transcriptional programs controlled by this complex. We have characterized the requirement of this complex for proper replication of repetitive heterochromatin peripheral to the centromere. Gene-doage sensitivity of the complex appears to underlie defects observed in human cancers with only one functional Rb1 allele. We are also characterizing patient outcome with RB1 status in NSCLC tumor samples as retention of the ppRB-E2F1 complex appears to repress induction of apoptotic targets and explain reduced chemosensitivity of this patient cohort. We are working to characterize this transcriptional repression, and exploit this complex to increase response to chemotherapy in RB1 positive NSCLC patients.

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N Johnston

Nathan Johnston

Nathan Johnston

completed his undergraduate BMSc degree in Biochemistry and Immunology (Honours Biochemistry of Infection and Immunity specialization) from Western University. He is currently working on his MSc in Pathology under the supervision of Dr. Wei-Ping Min at the Matthew Mailing Centre for Translational Transplant Studies.
Programmed Cell Death 1 (PD-1) is one of many negative regulators of the immune system and is upregulated on the surface of tumour infiltrating lymphocytes. This induces a state of T cell exhaustion within the tumor microenvironment, which allows for increased tumor evasion. Blockade of these receptors has been show to increase the potential of antigen-specific T cells to confer immunity against cancer. His research aims to discover novel microRNAs that regulate PD1 and to test their efficacy as a gene therapy both on its own and in synergy with current antibody blockade methods.

 

B Kolendowski

Bart Kolendowski

Bart Kolendowski

completed his BMSc Honors Specialization in Biochemistry and Cell Biology at the University of Western Ontario and is currently working towards an MSc in Biochemistry under the supervision of Dr. Joe Torchia. 
His research is focused on examining the role of DNA methylation in cancer signalling.  Recent work has shown that the initiation and maintenance of cancer, a role traditionally attributed to genetic mutations, involves extensive dysregulation of the epigenetic machinery. This dysregulation causes a dramatic alteration of the DNA methylation patterns in all cancers resulting in the silencing of tumor suppressor genes. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms by which the methylation is deposited and erased is vitally important.  Bart's work currently focuses on Thymine-DNA glycosylase (TDG), an enzyme involved in the removal of DNA methylation, and its role in hormone responsiveness and cellular senescence.  By gaining a better understanding of how DNA methylation is regulated Bart hopes to gain insight into what happens in cancer, potentially identifying new therapeutic targets.

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E Landman

Erin Landman

Erin Landman

holds a B.Sc. Honours degree in Biology from Queen’s University. She is currently completing the second year of a M.Sc. degree in the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology at the University of Western Ontario, under the supervision of Dr. Peeyush K. Lala.

Erin’s research focuses on the role of small regulatory molecules, called microRNAs, in cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2) mediated metastasis and disease progression in human breast cancer. She is currently investigating the mechanistic pathways involved in EP4 receptor-mediated upregulation of an oncogenic microRNA inducing the ‘stem-like cell’ phenotype in two human breast cancer cell lines and in a mouse model. The goal of her research is to contribute to the growing field of microRNAs as potential cancer biomarkers in the blood, with the hope of diagnosing breast cancer at its earliest stages.

 

M Majumder

Mousumi Majumder

Mousumi Majumder

is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, U.W.O, working with Prof. Peeyush K Lala. She is conducting research on understanding the mechanism of how micro RNA and “stem like cells” induced by inflammation-associated enzyme cyclo-oxygenase-2 in tumor micro environment can help to relapse the breast cancer after traditional therapy. These miRNAs and SLCs are induced and maintained by COX-2, so this process can be stopped with simple drugs inhibiting COX-2. This discovery raises new hope for eradication of 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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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
Matthew Piaseczny

Matthew Piaseczny

has a BMSc Honors Specialization in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Western Ontario. He is currently working towards his MSc in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, under the supervision of Dr. Alison Allan.

Research Interests: 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.

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G Pio

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.

A Raess

Avery Raess

Avery Raess

completed her undergraduate degree in Medical Physics at Ryerson University. She is currently working on her MSc in the Department of Medical Biophysics under the supervision of Dr. Jeffrey Carson.

Her research is in the area of photoacoustic imaging (PAI) and its use to image excised breast tumours. Currently, when women undergo breast conservation surgery, the tumour and a small amount of normal tissue surrounding it are removed. After the surgery, if pathology tests find cancerous tissue in the area that is supposed to contain normal tissue, another surgery must be performed to ensure the entire tumour has been removed. It is hypothesized that PAI can help assess the excised tissue while still in the operating room to reduce the need for additional surgeries. Currently, Avery is working on optimizing the PAI system in order to image breast tumour samples.

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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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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

Caitlin Symonette

 

Caitlin Symonette

completed medical school at the University of Western Ontario in 2012. She is currently a second year resident in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Western and is pursuing a concurrent Masters in Surgery degree under the supervision of Dr. Eva Turley. Her research aim is to determine the beneficial effects of a novel skin care technology developed by Dr. Turley termed HA-PE, which is a modified hyaluronan. Hyaluronan (HA) is the predominant polysaccharide in skin that promotes skin rejuvenation by improving hydration and localization of essential cytokines/growth factors. The widespread application of topical hyaluronan in wound healing and the treatment of certain skin conditions, such as radiation-induced dermatitis, have previously been explored. Preliminary research has demonstrated that HA-PE cream has superior skin penetration and retention compared to unmodified HA following a single topical application. Caitlin's masters will focus on determining the effect on skin of multiple daily applications of HA-PE, in addition to determining whether any local or systemic inflammatory reactions exist following HA-PE cream application using a murine model.

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M Thwaites

Michael Thwaites

Michael Thwaites

completed his undergraduate education at the University of Western Ontario with an Honours BSc in Genetics. He is currently working on his PhD in the department of Biochemistry under the supervision of Dr. Fred Dick. His research aims to understand a novel, non-transcriptional, pathway through which the retinoblastoma gene product (pRB) regulates the cell cycle, and what influence this pathway has on tumor suppression and carcinogenesis. He focuses on understanding the different mechanisms through which pRB can affect cell cycle control through the abrogation of individual binding interactions of pRB.  Secondly, he is studying the relevance of these pathways in the human disease through the use of animal models and human cancer cell lines.

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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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T Vakili

Tahereh Vakili

Tahereh Vakili

received her M.Sc. from the Urmia University of Medical Science (Iran). She is currently working towards her M.Sc. under the supervision of Dr. Eva Turley in the Department of Biochemistry.
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 in studying 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.

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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