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The Breast Cancer Society of Canada

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Shelley Warner: My cancer story, is not a death sentence

posted by:
Neil W

We would like you to meet Shelley Warner. Over the next month’s Shelley will be sharing a window in to her cancer story with us. As an introduction to her story, Shelley brings us up to her present days with a little bit of the beginnings to her cancer story.

Shelley Warner, my cancer story:
Breast cancer does not have to be a death sentence

In June of 2015 at the age of 46 I faced every woman’s worst fear and found a lump in my breast. At that point I had lived in the Mississauga area for 8 years and had always struggled to find a family doctor. I got up the next morning and called 9 doctors who all refused to see me. I explained my situation and still they refused. Call number 10 resulted in success. A doctor examined me and sent me for an ultra sound and mammogram. A week later the clinic called and requested I come back for a biopsy. The biopsy indeed confirmed I had breast cancer. The day following my diagnosis I met with my surgeon and was scheduled for surgery 10 days later where I had a lumpectomy and lymph nodes removed. The week following surgery I was sent for a CT and bone scan which is standard for all breast cancer patients. The following week I met with my oncologist for what I thought would be a routine appointment to obtain my schedule for chemotherapy. By this time my doctor had my scan results and he revealed to me that my cancer was Triple Negative metastatic breast cancer, very aggressive, and had already spread to my liver, lung and spine.

Shelley Warner, My cancer story

My oncologist proceeded to tell me that there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer. I remained very calm surprisingly and I looked up at my oncologist and said ok what are we going to do next? How are you going to treat me because I refuse to lie down and die! He told me we can do chemo but it will only shrink the cancer not cure me. I said surely shrinkage is better than letting it grow. Let’s start the chemo tomorrow I said! I looked my doctor straight in the face and I told him to please start telling me what he can do as opposed to what he cannot. With that he referred to his colleagues in the field and came back to me with a plan. I had 6 rounds of chemo every 3 weeks between September 2015 and January 2016. At the end of January, I had a CT scan and all the cancer was clear from my liver, lung and spine. My doctor said I was a miracle to be in remission. I continued to have scans every 3 months and each one clear until August 2016. I then began to suffer from a great deal of back pain in which a bone scan revealed the cancer was back in my bone. My lung and liver are still clear. I had just got to the point where I had a full head of hair again and back I went for 3 more rounds of chemo! I am now on an oral form of chemo called Xeloda. I’m only on my second cycle but so far so good.

Research is very important to me. Yes, without it I would not have the medication I am taking today to allow me a wonderful quality of life. However, my need for research goes beyond that. Metastatic breast cancer currently has no cure. Although I’m doing well on my current medication that could change at any time as cancer can become immune to the chemo. I am a huge advocate for research so that a cure can ultimately be found for this horrible disease. The current medication can buy me several years hopefully but a cure can save me all together.

My message is that metastatic breast cancer does not have to be a death sentence. This is a chronic disease and should be treated as such.  I am extremely active and live a full happy life! I work running my own successful recruitment firm. I travel and have been to Europe twice since my diagnosis and through my treatment. I live every day with the same zest and love of life as I always have.

Shelley Warner.

If you enjoyed this chapter in Shelley’s cancer story you can meet her in person.
Shelley will be one of the speakers at our Mississauga walk location on May 14. 2017.
Visit mothersdaywalk.ca for more information, to register to walk or sponsor someone today.

Shelly recently sat down to speak with Pauline Chan from CTV News to tell her story and why research matters to her. Watch the full story below or on the CTV website

Shelley Warner CTV News

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Photoacoustic Imaging Research

posted by:
Neil W

Hello, my name is Lawrence Yip, and I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Medical Biophysics at Western University. I work at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Dr. Jeff Carson’s lab where I am developing a new imaging technology called Photoacoustic Imaging to help treat breast cancer.

Lawrence Yip Photoacoustic Imaging ResearchPhotoacoustic acoustic imaging uses short pulses of laser light to excite materials which cause them to generate their own sound waves that we can detect. This allows us to utilize the advantages of both ultrasound and optical (light) imaging. We are working on implementing photoacoustic imaging with the detection of tumour margins in breast-conserving surgery after the tumours are removed from the breast.

I’ve just about finished building the hardware for this imaging system, and this past year has been primarily spent troubleshooting various problems that came up, such as water getting into the system and electrical noise interfering with our results. I’m excited to start imaging objects later this month!

In December of 2016, I decided that I wanted to continue working on this project, and completed my reclassification to switch my MSc degree to PhD.  It was a daunting thought to commit another three years, but I’m also excited at the progress that this will allow me to achieve. I’ve also been encouraged by the interest I’ve seen in my work at several conferences these past few months, and I’ve also had the privilege of winning two poster presentation awards.

Thank you to BCSC for your trainee support!

-Lawrence Yip, PhD candidate

Editors Note:
Lawrence Yip, and many other breast cancer researchers across Canada are the reason why we walk every year at our annual Mother’s Day Walk, because research matters. Find our more about our annual fundraiser, sponsor someone or register to walk. Find out more at mothersdaywalk.ca

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BCSC thanks all our volunteers!

posted by:
Neil W

As we come to the end of the 2017, National Volunteer week we would to thank all our volunteers for helping make an important positive impact on life-saving breast cancer research. We could not do it without your help! Happy #NVW2017

Thank you Nat Volunteer week

In addition to all our great volunteers, we would like to send a congratulations to Kay-Ann Violette, Pat Brown, Tom Whitelaw, Barb McEwan, Valerie Marzola and Vanessa Martinez all recognized at the Ontario Volunteer Service Awards recently for their many years of volunteer service to BCSC. Thank you from everyone at BCSC.

BCSC thanks all our longest volunteers

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Mark and Rebecca’s Mother’s Day Walk Story – UpDate

posted by:
Neil W

On National Volunteer Week 2017 we are very excited to feature a post from one of our Ottawa volunteers, Mark and Rebecca Fillier.  They have sent us a recent update to Mark and Rebecca’s Mother’s Day Walk story, from April of last year. Mark and Rebecca’s passion for the cause has led us to expand our outdoor Mother’s Day Walk to include one in Ottawa this year.  Recently Mark and Rebecca were kind enough to send us an update to their story and here it is.

Mark and Rebecca Fillier
Here is an update to our continuing journey with Stage 4 Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

After a very successful 2016 Mother’s Day Walk where I managed to finish my fundraising at $10,000.00 we were excited to have been announced the 2016 Top Fundraiser. We started to look at all of the different options that were available to us with the Cruise fundraising prize. After much debate and discussion we decided that we would like to take the 15 day Trans-Atlantic cruise as our prize.

We did have some further setbacks in June 2016. Rebecca ended up in the hospital for 1 ½ weeks due to a large blood clot that had formed in her heart. This was caused by numerous factors and the initial plan was for open heart surgery. We decided against that route and now on top of all the other medications Rebecca is taking blood thinners are part of her daily routine.

Rebecca had her last chemo treatment on August 26, 2016 and we had the doctor’s blessing to go enjoy our vacation. Her cancer had been responding well to the treatments and she was also managing the sides effects well (well as well as could be expected). It was decided that we would wait until we got home to do a follow up CT scan to see where things stood with the cancer. Now with the okay from the doctor we got everything organized and ready to go on this trip of a lifetime.

This cruise started in Southampton, England and finished in Montreal, Canada, with many amazing stops along the way (France, Guernsey, Ireland, Newfoundland and Quebec). This was the perfect vacation for both of us for many reasons. Rebecca is originally from the United Kingdom and hadn’t been home in over 30 years, and although this trip didn’t exactly get her home to Scotland it did allow her to re-experience a boat trip she had taken at the age of 3.

We flew to England on September 7, 2016 and boarded the Azamara Quest on September 9, 2016. All we can say is wow what an experience. Everything from the time we boarded until landing in Montreal was simply AMAZING. We met some amazing people and tried to experience everything we could during our trip, and boy did we have some memories created. During our 4 day crossing of the Atlantic Ocean Mother Nature decided that Tropical Storm Ian was going to give us some added excitement. The ship had to venture south to avoid heading into the eye of the storm (we almost made it to the Azure’s). Ian did present some rough days at sea with 15 foot waves but everyone managed well and we docked in St John’s Newfoundland as planned. During our stop in St John’s we met up with my (Mark’s) family and we covered as much of Newfoundland as possible in 7 short hours. Our journey continued down the St. Lawrence River until we docked in Montreal on September 23, 2016. Again it was an amazing trip and we wished it wasn’t ending, but it was back to reality for us.

On October 3, 2016, Rebecca had her CT scan and we saw the doctor the following week. The news we received was great. As we had shared previously her cancer had spread to her bones, liver and kidneys but the chemo treatments were doing the job. Everything was stable and had shrunk by 50% so it was decided that Rebecca will stay on a chemo break and give her body a break and let it rebuild.

Rebecca’s chemo break lasted until mid-December when her pain had increased really badly. We contacted the doctor and he ordered a CT scan right away. The scan did not bring us the news we wanted but with her symptoms we had expected bad news anyways. The cancer had started growing again and had now spread into her lungs. So we were headed right back to chemo treatments the same day we saw the doctor. The doctor decided that since the chemo treatments she was on before our cruise did their job we would go right back on the same regimen. Well unfortunately her body has not responded as well this time around and we are now awaiting to see a new doctor with regards to a new trial drug focused on TNB (Triple Negative Breast Cancer). Throughout this last year Rebecca has kept her positive attitude and she continue to work full-time. She is an amazing strong woman and continues to fight her battle with this terrible disease head on.

Now on to the Mother’s Day Walk, my continued support to Rebecca has driven me to become further involved with the Breast Cancer Society of Canada and we now have the 2017 walk planned outdoors. This was a vision I had during the 2016 mall walk. I am working with and alongside of some great people in order to make the 2017 Mother’s Day Walk happen. We have secured a location in Kanata (Walter Baker Park) and we are working hard at making this event a huge success. Personally Rebecca and I have raised our fundraising goal this year to $15,000.00 and I am committed to dying my hair pink again as soon as we reach the $7500 mark. As for the 2017 Ottawa Mother’s Day Walk I have a goal set in my mind to raise $100,000.00 in support of Breast Cancer Research through the Breast Cancer Society of Canada. Together we can make a difference and that is why my support and dedication for this cause will not waiver.

Hope for the Fighters
Peace for the Survivors
Prayers for the Taken

– Mark and Rebecca Fillier

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Developing a molecular imaging technique using MRI

posted by:
Neil W

Hello, My name is Yonathan Araya, I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Medical Biophysics at Western University. I work in the Imaging Research Laboratories at Robarts Research Institute under the supervision Dr. Timothy Scholl.

Yonathan Araya Breast Cancer ResearcherDr. Scholl’s lab focuses on developing advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques for use with novel molecular imaging probes of cancers. These molecular imaging probes are important tools to help oncologists map enzymes, proteins and amino acids, which are difficult to detect using conventional MRI methods and are linked to different cancers. The new methods (collectively known as molecular imaging) would help to assess solid tumours and measure their response to treatment.

The focus of my project has been developing a molecular imaging technique using MRI for the detection of specific proteins and cell-based interactions in breast cancers. I exploit the specific magnetic field dependence of tissues and contrast agents using our fast field-cycling magnet (which we call ‘dreMR’) to assess the metabolism and inflammatory response of solid breast cancer tumours. Last year, I described in our findings that there was a weak magnetic field dependence of tissues at clinical magnetic field strengths and that we can exploit this information to characterize cancerous tissues. The work was submitted to a scientific journal.

Currently, our lab is interested in measuring the up-regulation of serum albumin and the increased inflammatory response associated with the poor prognosis breast cancers and quantifying the changes in response to therapeutic treatment. This work is ongoing at the University Hospital and Robarts Research Institute.

Thank you for your trainee support!

– Yonathan Araya, PhD candidate

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MRI cell tracking for breast cancer

posted by:
Neil W

Hi, My name is Ashley Makela and I am a PhD candidate in the department of Medical Biophysics at Western University. I am working at Robarts Research Institute in Dr. Paula Foster’s lab where our main focus is to develop magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to “track” cells.

Ashley Makela - Breast Cancer ResearcherMy research involves using this MRI cell tracking specifically in breast cancer. Doing so, we can image specific cells called tumour associated macrophages (TAMs) and with this, we can get both information about the primary tumour and also visualize where the cancer spreads within the body (metastasis). We believe these cells are important to learn more about; their presence helps the tumour grow, allows the cancer to metastasize and they are associated with a poor prognosis in the majority of breast cancer cases. This research may produce important information about the influence of TAMs on tumour growth and metastatic spread and give insight on how to use this information to aid in detection, prognosis and treatment evaluation.

I’ve recently published my first research article and I’m looking forward to presenting my findings in Honolulu this April at the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.

Thank you to BCSC for your trainee support.

– Ashley Makela, PhD Candidate

Pamela Greenaway-Kohlmeier Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit, London Health Sciences Centre

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Targeting tumours the FAST way

posted by:
Neil W

Hello! We are Brent Johnston and Roy Duncan, Professors in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Dalhousie University. We have received funding from the Breast Cancer Society of Canada and the QEII Foundation through the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute, to investigate the use of viruses to target advanced and metastatic breast cancer.

Targeting tumours the FAST way, Breast Cancer Society of CanadaOncolytic viruses are engineered to selectively infect cancer cells by taking advantage of altered signalling pathways that result from cancer cell mutations. Oncolytic viruses not only kill tumour cells directly, they also stimulate the immune system to recognize and target the remaining cancer cells. Dr. Duncan has generated a novel oncolytic virus expressing a Fusion-Associated Small Transmembrane (FAST) protein. This protein helps the virus spread between tumour cells better, leading to greater infection and killing of cultured cancer cells. We are investigating how well FAST oncolytic viruses target breast cancer tumours and whether modified viruses can enhance stimulation of the immune system to target metastatic cancer cells. FAST viruses are also being combined with other therapeutic approaches that boost the function of the immune system further.

We are very excited that our approaches are generating promising results, and hope that his research will help establish new therapies to target advanced and metastatic breast cancer.

We thank the Breast Cancer Society of Canada, the QEll Foundation, and the generous donors for giving us the opportunity to do this work.

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Towards breast cancer detection with nanoprobes

posted by:
Neil W

Greetings! My name is Antonio Benayas. As some of you can perhaps remember from a previous post , I am a postdoc at Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, working to develop novel near infrared nanoprobes part of Professor Fiorenzo Vetrone’s group. It is the right time to summarize what has been accomplished during my term as CIHR-BCSC fellow.

Nanoparticles researchers at CSACS

Nanoparticles-related researchers at CSACS meeting http://csacs.mcgill.ca (Montreal, QC May 2016). From left to right: INRS PhD student Artiom Skripka, myself, INRS-Venice U. PhD Student Riccardo Marin, and our colleague Concordia U. PhD student Paola Rojas.

Accordingly to our job at the academic research stage, my contribution is to develop a pool of … let us call them “discreet spies”! Ultra-small entities (nanoparticles) adapted to inject in to humans and can effectively navigate through the blood stream. They will be able to report the presence and evolution of tumors, in a non-invasive way (harmlessly emitting light). In this multi-lane “assembly line” inside the nanomedicines´ factory, the multidisciplinary group led by Prof. Vetrone is setting the chassis, transmission, and wheels. All those pieces are not called upon in a “common car”, but in a very customized one for cancer imaging and detection.

When our role is done, we passed the vehicle to the next workstation (in other words, communicating it to the scientific community). Then is the time of physicians/oncologists to test the different vessels provided, and to pick up the best among them to move ahead to clinical implementation, step by step. Although my combat takes place in a battleground far away from the bedside of cancer patients, I firmly believe it is very important to keep digging at the basic science level. That way, we provide those closer-to-the-cancer-patient researchers with the best possible weapons to map the extinction of the disease, advancing the fight against it. I am glad to inform you that our published results has advanced the state-of-the-art towards low-dose in vivo nanoprobes successfully tested in mice. Moreover, several kinds of “spies” also show the capacity to measure the temperature of their surroundings. That key feature has indeed allowed our best nanoprobes to carry out a real-time monitoring of heat-based eradication of superficial tumors on live specimens, thus avoiding any damage to healthy tissues around the tumor.

But there are other kinds of assets and progress that I would like to share with you. First, throughout my BCSC-funded term, I devoted my best efforts to set up a cutting-edge microscopy facility* in the relatively young group of Prof. Vetrone at INRS. That in-house tool expands the possibility to test at the cellular level our nano-spies right after we synthesize them. Like in any other human endeavor, workflow efficiency is important. In a different note, we have created new forums to share with the pure Materials Science community, the relevance of body-penetrating near-infrared wavelengths. We are bringing additional minds and resources to the joint venture of pursuing a better non-invasive imaging of breast cancer and other diseases.

Finally, my aim guiding these few lines is to also emphasize what will remain after my departure. In fact, the team I helped to assembly will work further on getting better nanoprobes “to spy” for the appearance of (breast) cancer tumors. In that regard, I have been fortunate enough to mentor and work, shoulder to shoulder, with well-trained and highly motivated young scientists such as Riccardo Marin and Artiom Skripka (picture above). They now carry the torch, and I foresee more exciting results to come that will help the crusade against breast cancer.
Thank you to BCSC for your trainee support!
– Antonio Benayas (Ph.D.),
Postdoctoral Researcher (Eileen Iwanicki Fellow 12/2013-11/2016; CIHR-BCSC)

(*) That venture was undergone in close cooperation with a small but very ambitious Canadian optics company (Photon Etc.).

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Receptor for Hyaluronan-Mediated Motility or RHAMM

posted by:
Neil W

Hi everyone!

My name is Alexandra Hauser-Kawaguchi and I’m a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry at Western University. I work in Dr. Len Luyt’s lab at London Health Sciences Centre’s London Regional Cancer Program.

Alexandra Hauser-Kawaguchi - BCSC Breast Cancer ResearcherFor the past few years, I have been studying the protein RHAMM (Receptor for Hyaluronan-Mediated Motility). RHAMM levels increase in response to fragmentation of the compound hyaluronan (HA), which ultimately results in the spread of cancer and thus poorer outcomes for breast cancer patients.

We have recently been developing stapled peptides as RHAMM mimics. “Stapled” peptides are compounds that have been partially cyclized, giving them the appearance of having a “stapled” backbone. This “stapling” allows the peptide to circulate through the body longer than it would otherwise. This is ideal, as our RHAMM mimics are part of a drug discovery initiative, in which we have shown that they are able to block inflammation associated with breast cancer relating to fragmented HA. The RHAMM mimics could also help stop the disease from spreading to other parts of the body.

In September of 2016, I had the opportunity to attend the 34th European Peptide Symposium and 8th International Peptide Symposium in Leipzig, Germany. I was one of eight chosen to give an oral presentation in front of 700 scientists. This experience was frightening but also thrilling, and the high point of my graduate student career to date. After meeting with and learning from experts in the field, I returned to the lab full of new ideas on how to make our compounds better drugs for treating breast cancer.

Thank you to BCSC for your trainee support!
– Alexandra Hauser-Kawaguchi, PhD candidate
Pamela Greenaway-Kohlmeier Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit, London Health Sciences Centre

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Understanding how the estrogen receptor impacts breast cancer

posted by:
Administrator

Hello! My name is Bart Kolendowski and I’m a PhD candidate in the Department of Biochemistry at Western University. I work in Dr. Joe Torchia’s lab located at London Regional Cancer Program.
Bart KolendowskiDuring my tenure as a Pamela Greenaway-Kohlmeier Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit (TBCRU) scholarship recipient, I have focused my research on understanding how the estrogen receptor, a common target during breast cancer therapy, impacts breast cancer. By developing our understanding of how the estrogen receptor functions, we not only learn about how certain breast cancer therapies work but also why they may fail. With the support of TBCRU funding I have been able to advance our understanding of estrogen-mediated gene-expression, identifying previously unknown mechanisms that drive breast cancer development.

This work has been well received and has given me the opportunity to present my findings at prestigious conferences, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research National Student Research Competition held at the University of Winnipeg. I was also selected for an oral presentation at the international Keystone Symposia on Nuclear Receptors held in Snowbird, Utah. I am excited as my research is currently being compiled into a manuscript for submission to an academic journal to be shared with a broader audience.

In addition to helping advance my research, the TBCRU scholarship has promoted researchers’ engagement with the community through events like the Breast Cancer Society of Canada’s Mother’s Day Walk. These events allow researchers to meet and hear the stories of survivors and their families while also giving us an opportunity to share our work with them, successfully bridging the world of research with the people it impacts.

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