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2010/2011 Annual Research Doctoral and Postgraduate Fellowship Recipients

Dr. Sally Amos, Deeley Research Centre, BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver Island

Project Title

Enhancing cancer immunotherapy: genomic analysis of human bilateral breast cancer to identify factors modulating sensitivity to T cell infiltration

Project Overview

Over the past few decades it has been proven that the immune system can fight cancer. The goal of this project is to be able to switch it on effectively in all patients. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s Postgraduate Fellowship Award will help Dr. Amos use gene sequencing technology to identify characteristics that make breast cancers susceptible or resistant to the immune response. The project will use a rare set of human breast cancers obtained from women who developed tumors independently in both of their breasts in a similar period of time. These samples will clear the way for the research team to hunt down genetic differences that may affect the immune system’s ability to combat breast cancer. The study will provide oncologists and the medical community at large with knowledge of which patients are currently likely to respond to immunotherapy, and will also guide cancer immunologists to develop newer and better treatment options.

 

Dr. Nagarajan Kannan, Terry Fox Labratory, BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver

Project Title

Mechanisms of ROS regulation in primitive normal human mammary cells and their role in early stages of oncogenic transformation

Project Overview

Primitive cells in the mammary gland are thought to be the major targets of gene alterations (mutations) that cumulatively lead to breast cancer. Because of the importance of primitive mammary cells in the initiation of breast cancer, knowledge of their susceptibility to mutagenic agents is important. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s Postgraduate Fellowship Award to Dr. Kanna will enable him to focus on addressing this question using cells from normal human breast samples so that no extrapolation about the relevance of the findings from cell lines or mouse models is needed.  The study will look at how the cell regulates the levels of highly damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated from both normal responses to growth stimuli and also to toxic treatments that promote the formation of these ROS. Dr. Kannan and his research team have shown that a change occurs in how ROS levels are regulated as the most primitive normal human mammary cells begin to mature. They will now investigate whether this may explain how certain types of breast cancers start to form.

 

Dr. Anna Stratford, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Project Title

The regulation of Y-box binding protein-1 (YB-1) by p90 ribosomal S6 kinase (RSK) in basal-like breast cancer

Project Overview

The treatment of basal-like breast cancer (BLBC) suffers from the lack of targeted therapies. Treatment options for BLBC rest entirely upon conventional chemotherapies.  While these tumours often initially respond very well to chemotherapy they commonly become resistant in the long term leading to relapse.  With the help of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s Postgraduate Fellowship Award,  Dr. Stratford will be able to focus her effort on demonstrating the feasibility of a new therapeutic target RSK in patients for the treatment of BLBC in patients. The results from these studies will provide significant information for the development of in vivo studies and ultimately clinical trials.