1. Who are you? Tell us about yourself.
My name is Braeden Medeiros and I am a first year MSc student in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at Western University. I am working in the lab of Dr. Alison Allan at London Regional Cancer Program. Prior to pursuing my graduate work, I completed a BSc at Western with an honors specialization in Genetics.
2. Why is the TBCRU Studentship Award important to you?
Receiving the award is a privilege that has helped fund the resources needed to make advancements in my research. This award has also allowed me to network and collaborate with other TBCRU Studentship recipients. This opportunity provides me with a way to share my research with my peers, which could potentially lead to collaborative projects and further advancements in breast cancer research.
3. Tell us about your research. What are you doing and what problems do you hope to solve?
Despite advances in diagnosis and treatment, breast cancer still remains a clinical challenge. This is due to poor understanding of the spread of cancer (metastasis), a process that causes the majority of breast cancer-related deaths. The lung is one of the deadliest sites of breast cancer metastasis, especially for patients with an aggressive subtype of breast cancer call triple-negative (TN) disease.
We have previously observed that TN breast cancer has a tendency to migrate towards and grow in the lung. This project will assess how this subtype influences the ability of the lung to produce/attract specific factors that support the spread of breast cancer. The goals of my research are to identify when, why and how lung metastasis develops in a subtype-specific manner. The outcome could result in earlier detection, improved treatment, and prevention of metastasis.
4. Why is your research important? How can your research be applied in the real world?
My research aims to discover how a primary breast tumour influences and spreads to distant organ sites, such as the lung. The findings of my project may lead to improved clinical management strategies when a patient first receives a diagnosis of breast cancer. This would be made possible by identifying relevant molecular subtypes being investigated in my research for their tendency to spread, which can help clinicians with earlier detection, treatment, and/or prevention of lung metastasis in breast cancer patients.
5. What inspired your research?
The inspiration for this project came from two main areas – the literature and previous experiments. The literature has a growing body of evidence which demonstrates that luminal and triple negative breast cancer tend to spread to specific secondary organs. There is also literature suggesting that the presence of a primary tumor has the potential to influence a secondary organ in preparation for metastasis 9the spread of cancer). Previous experimental work in the Allan lab has found that the lung produces certain factors that promote breast cancer metastasis. The pre-existing literature and findings in my own lab led me to ask the question: how and when does breast cancer spread to the lung specifically?
6. Why are you passionate about breast cancer research?
As an undergraduate student I wasn’t planning on pursuing postgraduate research. However, in my second year of university, my aunt was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and with time the disease spread throughout her body resulting in her passing. This changed my perception as to what I wanted to do with my degree.
After some research, it became painfully clear how poor our understanding is of how metastasis occurs and how to treat it. My intention was to focus on a research topic that could have a great impact on patients. At this point, I had a partial research goal figured out, the next step was determining which type of cancer I would focus on. I soon came to realize the prevalence of breast cancer in our society. Armed with a topic I was passionate about, I sought to find a researcher with equal enthusiasm and I soon discovered that to be Dr. Alison Allan.
7. Why do you think breast cancer research matters?
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in females and second leading cause of cancer related deaths. 1 in 8 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and unfortunately 1 in 31 will die. These numbers are staggering and unacceptable, especially considering nearly all breast cancer related deaths are attributed to metastasis. Without breast cancer research, treatments will be stagnant and ultimately with time these statistics will worsen. Breast cancer research has the ability to advance therapies, improve diagnostic methods, and most importantly provide hope for the thousands of Canadians who are battling this terrible disease.
8. What excites you about your work?
The statistics that are associated with breast cancer in Canada show the need for continued research and innovation. My proposed research topic answers a fundamental question in the breast cancer field, that may provide insight into how breast cancer spreads. The ability to advance the current understanding surrounding breast cancer is both inspiring and a privilege.
9. What do you see yourself doing in the future?
As a MSc student, I am at the start of my academic research career, for me the potential to answer outstanding questions and advance current literature is something I have always aspired to do. Even more satisfying, is taking what is learned at the bench and translating it to the bedside. After completing my PhD, I hope to pursue the challenging path of academia, allowing me to perform research but also teach the next generation of scientists.
10. What do you like to do when you aren’t working on research?
Outside the lab I serve as an Intelligence Operator with the Canadian Armed Forces. I also volunteer, teaching ESL and participating on the board of directors at a non-profit organization.
Support researchers like Braeden Medeiros by considering a donation to the Breast Cancer Society of Canada. Find out how you can help fund life-saving research, visit bcsc.ca/donate