- Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Tasnim Reza, and I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Biochemistry at the Western University, and I am working under the supervision of Dr. Michael Boffa. I hold a BSc Honours in Biological Science (Life Science) from Ontario Tech University, and I completed Masters of Medical Biotechnology from the University of Windsor. After this but before starting my PhD, I worked at the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research as an intern in the Strategic Planning department.
- Why are you passionate about the work you are doing, and/or do you have a personal connection to breast cancer?
The mechanisms that cause different diseases always intrigued me, and my research provides me with the platform to study some exciting pathways specifically in breast cancer. I have met many people who have fought breast cancer; their stories have always inspired me to work hard to contribute to this field. I have also had relatives who fought a long battle with cancer, and their silent battle also motivated me to study this topic.
- Why is the TBCRU Studentship Award important to you, and how does it advance your research?
As a researcher, this award is a blessing as it allows me to expand my research and meet other individuals who are passionate about making a difference. It is an honour to be recognized by this prestigious award, allowing me to be part of a broad community of breast cancer researchers. The ideas and knowledge from this experience continues to enrich my research and gives me a better perspective. The financial relief due to the award also helps me focus on my research.
- In a few lines, please describe your research project, including the main objective and what problem(s) you hope to solve.
Metastasis is the leading cause of breast cancer-related deaths; spreading cancer from the primary tumour site to other parts of the body. No drugs currently exist that specifically target and stop metastasis, and this is the focus of my research project. Metastasis depends partly on a group of proteins that allow breast cancer cells to break away from the primary tumour and move into secondary organs such as the liver or the lung. Our project is focused on studying the role and interaction of two of these specific proteins called thrombin activatable fibrinolysis inhibitor (TAFI) and thrombomodulin in breast cancer metastasis. We have also designed a new protein-based drug based on thrombomodulin, and we are testing whether this new drug is effective against metastasis. The research project involves studying breast cancer cells in test tubes, assessing metastasis and therapeutic response in mouse models of breast cancer, and examination of tumours from human breast cancer patients.
- Have there been any changes to or any advancements in your research since your project began?
Our project is in the preclinical phase, and we have observed that our thrombomodulin-based protein drug can activate TAFI in the breast cancer microenvironment (the specific area within and around breast tumours), leading to reduced metastasis in our mouse models.
- Have you had an opportunity to present (or publish) your research to your peers or the broader research community? Was it at a national or international meeting or in some other way?
I had the opportunity to present this data in the form of short oral presentation and aa poster at the recent Gordon Research Conference (GRC) – Plasminogen Activation and Extracellular Proteolysis held in Ventura, California. I also presented a poster at the annual Oncology Research & Education Day in London, Ontario and I am in the process of writing a scientific manuscript with these exciting results.
- If you received feedback following your presentation how has it helped you and your research?
Feedback and insights from these conferences allow me to think about research from a new perspective. The comments and questions also help me see different research methodologies that I can apply to validate my results.
- How will your research be applied in the clinic or in a real-world setting? How will patients benefit from the results of your work?
After our pre-clinical studies are completed, we hope to develop this protein-based drug further to be used in the clinical setting to reduce metastasis in breast cancer patients.
- Tell us about your involvement in the Breast Cancer Canada fundraising events (Raise More Challenge, One Billion Steps Challenge).
I enjoy participating in fundraising events, and this year I helped organize the bake sale event and collected donations from friends and family for the Breast Cancer Canada Raise More Challenge.
- What are your hobbies? What are you currently reading, watching or listening to outside of the lab?
I like cooking, reading, and playing board games with my friends and family. I also love watching movies, especially horror and comedy movies. In my free time, I volunteer for organizations like Nourish Bangladesh and organize science outreach events such as Science Rendezvous.
Watch a video from Tasnim here.