From the Researchers: Descriptions of Projects funded by the Breast Cancer Society of Canada in laymen's terms
Sunnybrook Health Science Centre Dr Gregory Czarnota PhD, MD Scientist
Dr. Czarnota is conducting research focused on using ultrasound imaging and spectroscopy at conventional and high frequencies to detect apoptosis and other forms of cell death in response to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In addition to being a scientist in the imaging discipline he is an MD in the department of radiation oncology with applied research in breast cancer patients. His basic science research interests include studies in biochemistry, chromatin biology, biophysics, medicine and oncology.
Dr. Czarnota's exciting new reseach involves the use of microbubbles and ultrasound to effectively target tumours and enhance treatment in breast cancer patients.
London Health Sciences Centre Ann F. Chambers, PhD, Director, Pamela Greenaway Kohlmeier Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit (TBCRU), London Regional Cancer Program
$500,000 is awarded annually to support breast cancer research at the LHSC.
This award supports many aspects of the work at the Pamela Greenaway Kohlmeier Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit at the London Regional Cancer Program, under the direction of Dr. Ann Chambers. This support includes studentships and post-doctoral fellowships, as well as “seed funding” of small grants to jump-start new research ideas. The Unit supports a wide variety of breast cancer research being carried out both at the London Regional Cancer Program as well as multiple Departments at Western University, all focused on understanding the disease better and improving care for patients.
As of April 1, 2012, Dr. Alison Allan has been appointed as Assistant Director of the TBCRU, and in this role will continue to provide strong leadership and support of the aims and programs of the Unit, assisting Director Dr. Chambers in these responsibilities.
Training program: The aim of this Program is to provide scholarships for excellent trainees at Western University, working in any appropriate Department and doing research that has a path to benefit breast cancer patients. For the academic year 2010-2011, the TBCRU supported 18 graduate student scholarships and 4 post-doctoral fellowships. For the academic year 2011-2012, the TBCRU is supporting 16 graduate student scholarships. These trainees were productive over this time period. From 2010 to present (March 2012), TBCRU-supported trainees published 39 research articles, and made 47 local presentations and 41 national/international presentations.
Small Grants Program: The aim of this Program is to provide “seed funding” awards to breast cancer researchers at Western, in order to jump-start new projects and put our scientist in a strong position to compete for external research support and/or to provide evidence to improve patient care. In fiscal year 2010-2011, 4 such projects were supported, and in fiscal year 2011-2012, 1 project was supported.
Examples of recent breast cancer research supported by the Training and Small Grants Programs:
A clinical trial has been started at the LRCP, by radiation oncologist Dr. Francisco Perera and translational scientist Dr. Eva Turley, to learn if a cream developed by Dr. Turley’s lab can reduce skin damage when breast cancer patients receive radiation treatments.
Drs. Alan Tuck and Ann Chambers, along with graduate student Connor MacMillan, are studying what regulates early breast cancer progression, from ductal carcinoma in situ to invasive cancer and metastases. This work is important for helping to identify which early tumors are at higher risk for progression, and may also help in development of treatments to prevent pre-invasive tumors from becoming more aggressive.
Trainees working with imaging scientist Dr. Jeffrey Carson are working on developing better ways to image breast tumors, using a new technique called 3D photoacoustic imaging. The goal of the research is to develop a method to diagnose breast tumors sooner and with greater accuracy, which may reduce the need for biopsy procedures and minimize the time from diagnosis to treatment.
Graduate student Stephanie Dorman is working with genome bioinformatics expert Dr. Peter Rogan, to develop improved tests that more precisely identify molecular genetic changes in breast cancer. These tests can be used to better predict which tumors will be most aggressive and to determine which treatments may work best for individual patients.
Graduate student Lori Lowes, working with translational scientist Dr. Alison Allan, is working on new ways to detect and study circulating tumor cells that are found in the blood of breast cancer patients, with the goals of understanding the biology and clinical implications of these rare cells in order to help personalize breast cancer patient treatment.
$52,500 to support a joint research project carried out at the London Health Sciences Centre, Alberta Health Services and the Clinical Trials Group at Queen’s University.
This project is examining the potential of a blood and tumor marker called osteopontin, using samples from two large Canadian clinical trials in breast cancer patients. This marker may be useful in helping decide how best to treat breast cancer patients. Some of this work is nearing completion, with preliminary results presented at the 2011 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, and other portions of the study are ongoing. Findings from this research suggest that osteopontin blood levels are higher in breast cancer patients who have metastatic disease, compared to patients whose cancer is localized to the breast.