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2013/2014 Studentship Recipients

Daud Akhtar, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George

4th year undergraduate
Supervisor: Dr. Chow H. Lee, Chemistry, University of Northern British Columbia

Project Title

Break a specific protein-RNA interaction using oligonucleotide as potential strategy for cancer therapy

Project Overview

This project focuses on two proteins, CRD-BP and GLI1, which are both involved in the development of cancer. The aim of this project is to break the interaction of these proteins in cells by using a competitive oligonucleotide, a short, single-stranded RNA molecule. The project hypothesizes that a decrease in GL1 expression using this RNA strand would thereby suppress cancer phenotypes in breast cancer cells.


Jordan Eng, University of British Columbia, Kelowna

2nd year undergraduate
Supervisor: Dr. Chris Baliski, Surgical Oncology, BC Cancer Agency

Project Title

Influence of surgeon volume and synoptic reporting on the quality of surgical breast cancer operative reports in British Columbia

Project Overview

Historically, operative reports have been communicated in a narrative format to communicate key intra-operative information. Narrative reports have been shown to be incomplete and inefficient for both the reader and recorder. Synoptic reporting has been developed to improve completeness and efficiency by using an electronic template to prompt and organizes essential information. This study will assess the quality of the traditional narrative surgical breast cancer operative reports in key areas and the influence of newly introduced BC Cancer Agency synoptic reports.

Parv Chapani, University of Victoria, Victoria

3rd year undergraduate
Supervisor: Dr. Brad Nelson, Deeley Research Center, BC Cancer Agency

Project Title

Bringing the immune system to tumours: engineering an onocolytic virus to induce the formation of protective lymphoid structures in breast cancer

Project Overview

Attenuated forms of naturally occurring viruses, known as onocolytic viruses (OV), selectively replicate and destroy cancer cells. These viruses have been used successfully as experimental therapies for human cancer. Recently, it has become evident that the success of OV therapy depends on the introduction of associated anti-tumour immune responses. For several years, tumour immunologists have known that the lymphocytes that invade tumour tissue can actively destroy cancer cells. However, this anticancer immunity is sufficient to clear established cancers without additional stimulation. The aim of this project is to use OVs to stimulate and boost the cell’s immune response to cancer. This project will engineer a new OV to cause the production of a host protein. By infecting mice bearing established breast cancers with this modified virus, the research hopes to stimulate the immune response against the cancer while at the same time causing its partial destruction by the OV. It is thought that this “two-pronged” attack will be more effective than current OVs, and will provide valuable pre-clinical data on how such an approach might be implemented in human patients.

Patrick Chun Yin Lai, Wayne State University School of Medicine, BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver

2nd year undergraduate
Supervisor: Dr. Kevin L. Bennewith, Integrative Oncology, BC Cancer Agency Research Centre

Project Title

HMOX1 promotes breast cancer metastasis by modifying tumour blood vessels 

Project Overview

This project will examine the role of a protein called HMOX1 in breast cancer metastasis. Research has found that targeting HMOX1 in breast tumours results in decreased cancer growth, and the team is interested in determining how HMOX1 influences breast tumour metastasis. The preliminarily data indicates HMOX1 expression by tumour cells is associated with poorly functioning blood vessels and the generation of poorly oxygenated tumour cells, which are known to increase metastatic growth. This project will therefore explore whether this HMOX1 protein represents a rational therapeutic target for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.