Hello! My name is Jenna Kara and I’m an MSc student in the Department of Medical Biophysics at Western University, working in the labs of Paula Foster, PhD and Dwayne Jackson, PhD.
Studies have found relationships between elevated stress and poor survival in cancer patients. I study how stress affects breast cancer tumour growth and progression.
During stress, the body’s sympathetic nervous system releases a substance called neuropeptide Y (NPY). NPY binds to receptors in the body, and we’ve shown that NPY can make breast cancer cells grow faster and make blood vessels form (which is important for tumour growth).
Interestingly, women with family histories of breast cancer tend to have greater sympathetic neurotransmitter release under normal living conditions.
My work tests three breast cancer cell types of varying aggressiveness for expression of NPY receptors, and measures their growth in response to NPY treatment.
In addition, I’m using MRI cell tracking to monitor tumour growth progression and metastasis. In this study we look to see if blocking the target receptors of NPY blunts tumour growth and spread.
This research could uncover NPY receptors as potential drug targets, providing patients with a better risk assessment of cancer recurrence.
Thank you to BCSC for your trainee support!
– Jenna Kara, MSc student
Pamela Greenaway-Kohlmeier Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit, London Health Sciences Centre