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2014/2015 Studentship Recipients

Christalle Chow, University of  British Columbia, Vancouver

3rd year Undergraduate, Combined Honours, Biochemistry and Chemistry program

Supervisor: Dr. Gregg Morin, BC Genome Sciences Centre

Project Title

Targeting RNA splicing process for cancer therapy

Project Overview

In this project, we will study the regulatory protein, CDK12. Mutations in CDK12 have been identified in breast and ovarian tumours, suggesting its aberrant function could contribute to tumorigenic properties. We have identified several other proteins that interact with CDK12, thus providing information on how it may carry out its biological functions. We will determine if mutations to CDK12 and its interacting proteins contribute to the abnormal and destructive growth properties of breast cancer cells. We will also identify genes within cancer cells whose RNA encoding segment order is controlled by CDK12 and determine how the loss of this control contributes to tumour development.

Christine Anderson, University of Victoria, Victoria

4th year Undergraduate, Biochemistry and Microbiology

Supervisor: Dr. Wan Lam, BC Cancer Research Centre, Integrative Oncology

Project Title

Comparison of the oncogenic capacity of ELF3 in lung and breast cancer

Project Overview

The E74-Like Factor 3 (ELF3) protein is over-expressed in several cancer types including breast and lung cancer; however, its function as an oncogene remains to be proven. In both lung and breast cancer environments, ELF3 undergoes significant DNA changes both leading to an overproduction of the ELF3 protein. In the proposed project I will determine the biological function of this gene by engineering breast and lung cell models to over and under-express ELF3, and then measure the changes of cancer related phenotypes which occur in the two cancer cell types.

James Wang, University of  British Columbia and British Columbia Institute of Technology

4th year Undergraduate, Bachelor of Science in Honours Biotechnology

Supervisor: Cheryl Helgason, BC Cancer Research Centre, Experimental Therapeutics

Project Title

Analysis of CBX2 in Prostate and Breast Cancer

Project Overview

Our research has shown that CBX2, a protein that causes reduced expression of certain genes, is found in high levels in metastatic prostate and breast cancer cells compared to normal cells. Thus, CBX2 may have a role in the progression of prostate cancer, by stopping the expression of tumor suppressor genes. The goals of this project are to validate our microarray data following CBX2 knockdown in prostate cancer cells and to determine if CBX2 plays similar roles in breast cancer. The project will provide new insights into the function of CBX2 in cancer, therefore providing the rationale for the development of novel therapeutics targeting CBX2.

Hannah Lee, University of  British Columbia

4th year Undergraduate, Bachelor of Medical Science

Supervisor: Kevin Bennewith, BC Cancer Research Centre, Integrative Oncology-Radiation Biology Unit

Project Title

The role of beta-arrestin 1 and 2 in the metastatic progression of breast cancer

Project Overview

Metastasis is a multi-step process involving the spread of tumor cells from the primary tumour to distant locations. The metastatic spread of cancer is linked to over 90% of cancer-related deaths. Therapies designed to prevent the spread of metastatic cells from the primary tumour hold great promise to improve outcome for patient risk of developing metastatic disease. Studies increasingly show that molecules called beta-arrestins may encourage the development of tumour metastases by promoting the survival of breast cancer cells. This project will investigate beta-arrestin levels in different types of breast cancer cells with the goal of understanding specific roles of beta-arrestins in tumour metastases. With this knowledge, new therapies to effectively target beta-arrestin activities and decrease metastatic breast tumour growth may be designed.

Fraser Johnson, University of  British Columbia

4th year Undergraduate, Bachelor of Science in Honours Pharmacology

Supervisor: Marcel Bally, BC Cancer Research Centre, Experimental Therapeutics

Project Title

Design, development and use of liposomal nanoparticulate drug formulations that can selectively localize to sites of the breast tumor metastases

Project Overview

This project will involve the development and optimization of a nano-scale drug carrier formulation used to treat metastatic breast cancer in mice, and will allow us to define the attributes of a drug formulation which is most suitable for the delivery of anticancer drugs to treat metastases at distinct anatomical sites.

Devon Mitchell, University of  British Columbia

4th year Undergraduate, Microbiology and Immunology

Supervisor: Mohamed Khan, BC Cancer Research Centre, Radiation Oncology and Department of Experimental Therapeutics

Project Title

Deciphering the chemoresistance mechanism(s) to polo-like kinase 1 inhibition in triple-negative breast cancer

Project Overview

Patients with triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC) have very poor prognosis in terms of relapse and overall survival. There is currently no targeted therapy for this heterogeneous group of patients. Recent experimental results from independent research groups suggest that targeting Polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) is a promising option in treating TNBC patents. Presently, many small-molecule inhibitors are being developed for targeting PLK1. However, clinical data reveal that single-agent treatment often selects cancer cells that become resistant to the anticancer drug, leading to relapse. Therefore, it is essential to identify potential resistance mechanisms of TNBC to PLK1 inhibition, such that combined therapy can be rationally designed to increase treatment efficacy.