Hailey Dall-Proud, BMSc’20, submitted her fourth-year thesis project to The Global Undergraduate Awards at the last minute, not expecting much to come of it. In learning her submission, Inflammation Mediators in Ovarian Cancer Spheroids, had been named best in the world in the medical sciences category, she was shocked.
“I’m just floored. I can’t believe it. But I am really honoured. I put so many long hours into my thesis. It’s really rewarding and satisfying to get recognition for all the hard work and to know that others find your work interesting,” said Dall-Proud, who completed her Honours Specialization in Biochemistry and Cancer Biology.
Her research project examined possible genetic factors that influence the rapid growth and spread of cancer cell clusters in patients with ovarian cancer.
“Ovarian cancer spheroids are clusters of cancer cells in the abdominal cavity. We know they can grow quickly and lead to rapid metastasis. We want to know which genetic factors allow these spheroids to form, and contribute to a worse prognosis.”
She examined genes with upregulated signatures associated with inflammation and compared spheroids to typical adherent cells to identify candidate genes upregulated in spheroids. By then knocking out Dec1, one of these upregulated genes, in ovarian cancer cells, her work identified that Dec1 is somehow implicated in spheroid cell growth.
“It’s something to look at in future as a potential marker for late-stage epithelial ovarian cancer, or a potential target for treatment,” she explained.
Dall-Proud completed her Honours Specialization in Biochemistry and Cancer Biology, working on her ambitious research project with supervisor Professor Trevor Shepherd and mentor Adrian Buensuceso, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Shepherd’s lab.
“This research would not be possible without either of them. They were always available for guidance and to direct the project. It was a really great experience,” said Dall-Proud.
On why she chose to go into the relatively new specialization in Biochemistry and Cancer Biology, Dall-Proud said, “I knew I definitely wanted to do something disease-based and there’s no global disease more impactful than cancer. Being a woman in science, and being able to somehow contribute to research into improving the diagnosis or treatment of cancer is incredibly rewarding. “
“I never expected to win. It really just motivates me to work harder and helps me to know I can achieve my goals.”
Now in the Master of Science Program in Biochemistry at McGill University, Dall-Proud is working in breast cancer research at the Goodman Cancer Research Centre under Dr. William Muller.