Hi! My name is Karla Williams and I’m a postdoctoral fellow at Western University. I’m mentored by Hon Leong, PhD and Ann Chambers, PhD, whose labs investigate various aspects of tumour biology such as tumour metastasis and dormancy. The focus of my research as a translational breast cancer research trainee is on developing a blood-based test to identify breast cancer subtypes and to monitor breast cancer patients during treatment. We’re also hoping to advance this approach to become a non-invasive primary test for breast cancer screening.
Currently, a breast cancer blood assay doesn’t exist because there is no good, single breast-specific marker. This single biomarker continues to elude the breast cancer scientific community, so I’m trying to develop a multi-biomarker assay to detect breast cancer microparticles found in patient blood samples.
So far, using a simple blood sample and not a tissue biopsy, I’ve been able to detect one of the three main breast cancer markers and identify subtypes (HER2) which are important in determining the best treatment for a patient. In addition to working on detecting the other two main subtypes (ER/PR), I’ve also begun the detection of other markers that will help determine a cancer’s aggressiveness.
I’m excited for the development of a microparticle biomarker-based blood test, which will enable the improved monitoring of breast cancer patients during therapy as well as post-treatment, leading to improved and more informed care decisions.
Thank you to BCSC for your trainee support!
– Karla Williams, PhD
Pamela Greenaway-Kohlmeier Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit, London Health Sciences Centre