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Understanding how the estrogen receptor impacts breast cancer

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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.

Imaging biomarkers in treatment of breast cancer with high-dose radiation therapy

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My name is Matthew Mouawad. I am a third-year PhD student in the department of Medical Biophysics at Western University working under the supervision of Drs. Stewart Gaede and Neil Gelman.

Matthew Mouawad, CAMPEP PhD candidate Pamela Greenaway-Kohlmeier Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit, London Health Sciences Centre

With the high prevalence of breast cancers (1 in 9 women) in North America, we need to find ways to minimize the emotional and physical burden on patients and explore more efficient treatment techniques. Currently, breast-conserving therapies will often include five weeks of post-surgery radiotherapy, which can be prohibitively long for many patients. Furthermore, we currently do not have methods to non-invasively evaluate tumour control at an early stage.

To address these two limitations, London Regional Cancer Program is conducting a clinical trial headed by Drs. Muriel Brackstone, Michael Lock, and Brian Yaremko that is looking to reduce treatment time from five weeks to a single session, using high-dose radiotherapy. My role in this project is to use imaging we acquire from the hybrid PET-MRI at St. Joseph’s hospital to assess tumour control within seven days of treatment! The treatment technique would minimize patient burden significantly and the imaging would allow us to explore alternative ways to treat patients and potentially allow for adaptive patient treatment techniques.

We have successfully treated 14 patients using the new high-dose radiotherapy technique and have developed an imaging protocol that will allow us to investigate various tumour biomarkers. I look forward to presenting the most recent results in an manuscript within the next few months.

Thank you to BCSC for your trainee support!

– Matthew Mouawad, CAMPEP PhD candidate

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


Mark and Rebecca’s Mother’s Day Walk Story

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Mark and Rebecca Fillier

Hi! Our names are Mark and Rebecca Fillier. We were recently married on September 19, 2015. We had a very happy life together in the past 8 years and had planned on continuing having a happy life after our wedding but life has had some different plans for us. We are still happy together but now we have a fight on our hands.

In December 2015, Rebecca found out she had Breast Cancer. The doctor decided they would perform a lumpectomy and she would undergo some radiation treatments and should be all good.

Well it didn’t end up being that simple!!

After some further consultations with different doctors we were informed that surgery was not an option and it was Stage 4 advanced Triple Negative Breast Cancer. We were told that there was no cure. Without treatment she had less than 1 year to live and with treatment she had 2 years to live at best.

Rebecca was ready to fight this battle head on. She informed the doctor that she was going to prove him wrong. She told him that she has too much to still accomplish in her life and will not allow this to beat her. Further testing also revealed metastases to her liver, kidney and 2 spots on her bones (one in the area of the tumor in the chest wall, the other in the right side of her pelvis).

Rebecca has already watched her mom go through Breast Cancer and become a survivor. She was so strong and this has given her the strength she has today to fight this monster. My love, support and dedication in Rebecca’s battle with this disease also keeps her strong.

Shortly after Rebecca started her chemo treatments, the news was good and bad. While the tumors in the breast and chest wall had not grown, the other areas were still growing. Her new treatments started April 15, and so far the side effects have been much worse. Regardless of this, she is staying positive and is still working at her job putting in as many hours as she can. Her strength and positive attitude continues to amaze me and helps to keep me strong and positive as well.

Now while this is Rebecca’s battle I could not just sit on the sidelines and watch. I started looking at different things on the internet, reading up on breast cancer and treatments etc. and came across a link for the Mother’s Day Walk in support of the Breast Cancer Society of Canada. This is when I decided that this is one way I can support my wife’s battle and I would take part in the 5km walk on May 1st 2016.

While I can’t cure the cancer that Rebecca has I can offer her my full love, support and my dedication to the Mother’s Day Walk to fund research. This could possibly lead to finding a cure for my wife and many other women.

pink chocolates

Fundraising chocolates

When I first signed up for the walk here in Ottawa at the Carlingwood Mall I had set my fundraising goal at $2500.00. After amazing support from my friends, family and co-workers, I have now surpassed $5000.00. I am not stopping there. In an effort to increase my fundraising, I also decided to make some chocolates using a mold in the shape of the iconic ribbon. Since this is for breast cancer, I used pink chocolate, of course! With the incentive offered for the top fundraiser (A Cruise for Two), I plan on continuing my fundraising to ensure that I can take my wife on the honeymoon that we have yet to have.

Rebecca and I would like to say ‘Thank you’ to each and every one of you for your support to this cause. The efforts made by all in the Mother’s Day Walk to support of the Breast Cancer Society of Canada in funding research we will one day find a cure for wife and the many other strong women out there fighting every day!!!!

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

– Mark and Rebecca Fillier, Team Nepean Fighters

Celebrating National Volunteer Week 2016

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national volunteer week
Author and physician, Dr. Rachel Remen sums up the meaning of service very distinctly: “True service is a relationship between people who bring the full resource of their combined humanity to the table and share them generously. Service is another way of life … service is a relationship between equals … In helping, we may find a sense of satisfaction … in serving we have an experience of gratitude.”

Volunteerism truly relates to the giving and receiving of resources. The act itself embodies the sharing of passion, skills, time, talents, stories of survivorship, inspiration and so much more. Whether you are a leader of volunteers, a volunteer or the recipient of volunteer efforts, you know firsthand the impact of this selfless service.

In my role at the Breast Cancer Society, I am truly awed by our volunteers and their passion to move our mission forward. They inspire me daily not just with the gift of their time but with their generosity of spirit. Everyone who has ever been affected by breast cancer has benefited directly or indirectly from the support of volunteers.  I am also inspired by the Breast Cancer Society’s leadership and Board of Directors. Their unwavering support strategies strengthen volunteer engagement and the development of standards for involving individuals in meaningful ways that meet everyone’s needs.

National Volunteer Week is one of my favourite weeks! It is a time when organizations collectively celebrate over 12.7 million volunteers in Canada while promoting volunteerism as a whole. It is also a wonderful opportunity for professionals in the management and leadership of volunteers to connect, plan and execute local and provincial recognition events. While ongoing gratitude is always given to our own team of volunteers, National Volunteer Week lends us the opportunity to shout THANK YOU from the rooftop!

Johanne Deschamps
Coordinator of Volunteer Resources

Happy 23rd Birthday

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Happy 23rd Birthday to the Breast Cancer Society of Canada!

We’re celebrating 23 years of progress into researching the causes, treatments and prevention of breast cancer in Canada.

Please take some time out of your day to leave a special birthday message in the comments below.

Dress for the Cause – Common Questions Answered

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Listen to Kathy Ferguson from Bluewater Health’s Mammography Clinic and Heather Allen from Goodwill Industries EKL ask some common Dress for the Cause questions.

If you still have questions, feel free to call the Breast Cancer Society of Canada at 1-800-567-8767 or email

Dawn answers your Mother’s Day Walk questions

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Mother’s Day Walk Coordinator Dawn Hamilton answers questions submitted by participants all across Canada! Visit for more information.

Interview with Pam’s Sister

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The Breast Cancer Society of Canada was started in memory of Pam Greenaway-Kohlmeier. She continues to be our inspiration. Pam’s sister Michelle discusses this year’s Mother’s Day Walk and the history of the Breast Cancer Society of Canada.

You made 3 wishes in the local Sarnia newspaper in 2003.

  1. I wish for every city to have a breast assessment unit
  2. I wish for all mammography clinics to have up-to-date equipment and staff training
  3. I wish for the processes of mammography to be more comfortable

Michelle Morton (L) with Mother’s Day Walk Event Coordinator Dawn Hamilton (R)

Are your wishes still the same?
“I made some pretty big wishes. My wishes are still the same because I believe keeping up with the mammography clinics, breast assessment units, and their staff is an ongoing process.”

Do you think we’ve achieved any of your wishes?
“As long as we’re continually striving to improve our centers, I think we’re achieving my wishes.”
“As for the process of mammography, I know it’s not the most comfortable, but I can’t stress enough, you have to do it. I go through it every year, and people always ask me ‘why.’ It’s because my sister Pam died of breast cancer at age 38, therefore I have a strong history of breast cancer in my family. Regular mammograms are my best defense against breast cancer. Mammograms are the most accurate tool for detecting breast tumors at an earlier stage. It’s about being proactive, personally.”

In 2003 early detection was your personal mission. Do you think women are getting better at checking their breasts on a regular basis, and going to the doctor or for a mammogram if they notice any changes?
“The first step is to get women thinking about breast health. Awareness has come a long way; it’s no longer taboo to talk about breasts, the way it was a couple decades ago. Due to awareness, I think women are getting better at doing regular breast self-exams, and talking to their doctors or going for mammograms if they notice any changes in their breasts.”

The little Breast Cancer Society office that started in your parent’s home in Pt. Edward 23 years ago has grown to a national charity, funding over $1 million each year in breast cancer research. How does that make you feel? Are we still living out Pam’s Legacy?
“So proud.”
“Yes, it brings tears to my eyes, I truly believe the Breast Cancer Society of Canada is honoring my sister, Pam’s legacy. I am so proud of my parents who started this charity, and so proud of my brother-in-law at the time, who stayed strong at Pam’s side, fighting against breast cancer.”

What do you miss most about Pam? What will you always remember about Pam?
“Pam was so kind; she had the biggest blue eyes, and a contagious smile. She had such a good outlook on life, she was so fun, beautiful, and could always make me laugh.”

Was it important to you that BCSC stayed local after its strong grassroots start in Sarnia-Lambton?
“It was definitely important to me that the Breast Cancer Society maintained its local roots. Even though the charity is national, local donors from Sarnia and Point Edward are the reason that the Society exists. We couldn’t have started this charity without their generosity. It is truly an honour to Pam’s legacy that we keep the fight strong here in Sarnia-Lambton.”

As a past Mother’s Day Walk Fundraising Chair, what tips do you have for people who are trying to raise money for this year’s walk?
“Just ask! People are waiting for you to ask them to make a donation. If breast cancer has touched you personally, like it touched my family, share your story. If you’re passionate about fighting breast cancer, it’s easier to put yourself out there.”

You’ve been asked to be the special guest at Sarnia’s Mother’s Day Walk. Are you looking forward to the walk this year?
“I am very excited for this year’s Mother’s Day Walk at Canatara Park. I have three sons, none of whom ever had the chance to meet Pam, so I hope to bring them to the walk, along with my husband.”

Join Michelle and her family at the 23rd Annual Mother’s Day Walk at Canatara Park, May 11th at 9AM. Registration is free. Call the Breast Cancer Society of Canada office at 1-800-567-8767 or visit for more information.

A day in the life of a model!

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You probably know by now that our organization funds over $1 million in Canadian breast cancer research each year, and we accomplish this with just 5 full time staff members. Although there’s only 5 of us, we certainly couldn’t achieve this without our dedicated volunteers, and generous partners. This month, myself and the rest of the ladies at the Breast Cancer Society of Canada were treated, by our partner cleo, to a once in a lifetime opportunity – to be models for a day!

After we were given the professional hair and makeup treatment we participated in a photo shoot! (Isn’t that secretly every women’s dream?). The photo shoot was part of a campaign celebrating the “Society” and our long-time partnership with cleo in the annual Mother’s Day Walk.

As the newest member of the “Society” I was drawn to the strength and dedication of these women in their fight for a cure; but, this month I got to see a new side of these ladies. This was an exciting and wonderful bonding experience for the 5 of us. I took it all in as we giggled, smiled, blushed, and finally got over our embarrassment of being in front of the camera. We joked with the photographer about making sure she would “photoshop” the pictures to be more attractive, and we oohed and awed over the beautiful clothing.

I am so fortunate to work with such amazing people! These women blow me away with what they achieve, and raise the bar for all charities. I have never been happier as I learn more about the brilliant, world-renowned researchers we fund who are truly making a difference in the lives of breast cancer patients. The world of research can be both fascinating and hard to grasp, but when I get to see survivors at the Mother’s Day Walk who are full of life, determined, and stronger than ever in the face of cancer, I know the journey to a cure is shortened by our work. I hope you will join us, along with cleo at this year’s Mother’s Day Walk!

Here’s a sneak peek of some of our photos! Look for them at cleo stores in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day.


cleo photoshoot

Johanne, Diane, Katarina, and Marsha at the cleo photoshoot

johanne and katarina

Johanne and Katarina at the cleo photoshoot





diane and johanne

Diane and Johanne at the cleo photoshoot

marsha and dawn

Marsha and Dawn at the cleo photoshoot
















-Katarina Gagne, Communications Coordinator

Breast cancer risk lowered up to 25% by walking 1 hour a day

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Our Executive Director, Marsha Davidson, had the pleasure of being interviewed by several CBC radio stations this week about a very exciting breast cancer study recently published by the American Cancer Society. Here are all the details from the interview between Marsha Davidson and Doug Dirks of CBC Calgary on the Homestretch:

woman walking

1 hour of vigorous walking per day can decrease your risk of getting breast cancer by 25% according to a new study by the American Cancer Society.

Q: What did this study discover?
A: This is quite exciting news. This study found that there is a significant link between even moderate exercise and lowering the risk of breast cancer, especially in menopausal women.

Q: What do the numbers tell us?
A: First of all, 52% of breast cancer cases are in women between the age of 50-69, which is the post-menopausal group. Moderate exercise of 1 hour per day will lower their risk of breast cancer by about 14%. If these women step it up a bit, and walk a little more vigorously then it can even reduce risk by up to 25%. This is very encouraging because everyone can take some time to walk.

Q: And what role does walking contribute to a lowered risk breast cancer?
A: The study showed that walking effects the levels of estrogen in women who walk. Many breast cancers are linked to estrogen and are very sensitive to estrogen. As women age, there is a chance that they will have higher levels of estrogen in their bodies. Walking is a way to reduce the levels of estrogen in a woman’s body, which therefore reduces her risk of breast cancer.

Q: We have a tendency to get very excited about studies that look promising, but this study had a very significant sample size. So how significant is this study, in your opinion?
A: This study is great; it is very significant. It was done by the American Cancer Society and had a sample size of about 73,000 people, over a 17 year period. So this is a very big study, big sample, and a big timeline to follow the trends of these people. This will be very valuable information going forward.

Q: What about the economic barriers? Because in this case if it’s just strictly walking, you don’t really need a gym membership, right?
A: No. There are no barriers here for anyone. Anyone can participate in this. It doesn’t even have to be a full hour of walking at once. It can be split up throughout the day if that is more doable for people.

Q: How can younger women benefit from the findings of this study?
A: This study focused on women in the post-menopausal group, but if I were a younger woman, I would see this as an opportunity to adopt this healthy lifestyle now, so I can continue it through my life and reap the benefits now and in the future.

Q: And it’s not  just about exercise. What are some of the other factors younger and old women should be cognizant of?
A: Many studies have pointed towards a healthy lifestyle as a way of preventing breast cancer in the first place. Unfortunately there are no guarantees that a healthy lifestyle will prevent breast cancer, but you are certainly lowering your risk. Other factors include keeping your body weight in the normal range, keeping alcohol consumption moderate, and eating well. All of those things we should be doing every day really do make a difference, and this study has helped prove that.

Q: Now how can the Breast Cancer Society of Canada make use of this new information about exercise and breast cancer?
A: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What a better time to remind people to maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep their risks low, for not only breast cancer but for many types of chronic diseases, to have a better chance to not get these diseases in the first place.

Q: It’s great from a research standpoint, and also from a healthcare standpoint, but what about the economic spin-off if more women undertake these exercise regimes, and taking off some pressure on our health care system as we get older?
A: Yes, we’ve got a whole bunch of aging people, baby boomers, which is a huge stress on the health care system in Canada. If we can get more people out of the hospital and treatment centres in the first place, and just living healthy lives, then we all benefit.

Q: What can you tell us about the Breast Cancer Society of Canada’s upcoming fundraiser for Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
A: Dress for the Cause is a great event! We have thousands of businesses registered across Canada to wear pink to work on October 16, raise some money, have fun, and it all goes towards breast cancer research.

Q: Where can people find more information about Dress for the Cause?
A: People can find more information at

Click here to read the original article published by the American Cancer Society.

Click here for a link to Marsha’s interview with CBC Calgary on the Homestretch

Click here for a link to Marsha’s interview with CBC Maritime Noon