Welcome back to another trainee blog series for this year’s Dress for the Cause event with the Breast Cancer Society of Canada. My name is Natasha Knier. I am happy to be sharing some experiences of planning an event, promoting awareness about research, and connecting with the community to raise funds for breast cancer research.
This year, the Robarts Cellular and Molecular Imaging Group (CMIG) has several trainees that have received scholarships from the Breast Cancer Society of Canada – Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit (TBCRU). The unit is also connected to the London Health Sciences Centre research community. Scholarships are awarded to students pursuing projects in translational breast cancer research. Many of us are also involved in fundraising efforts for the Breast Cancer Society of Canada throughout the year.
This series will showcase the journey of myself, Veronica Dubois, Nourhan Shalaby, and Julia Gevaert, as we take the lead in executing several fundraising and promotional efforts. As trainees involved in breast cancer research, we are passionate about supporting fundraising and awareness efforts that highlight the critical need for further research in this area. We believe in the importance of showing support for the community of individuals who have been affected by breast cancer throughout their lives.
To introduce the team, I will be introducing myself and my lab members, as well as a summary of our current projects that are funded by the TBCRU.
My name is Natasha Knier, and I am an MSc Candidate in the Medical Biophysics program at Western University, supervised by Dr. Paula Foster. My project focuses on studying breast cancer that spreads to the brain using patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models by using a specialized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique and bioluminescence imaging (BLI) to see which cells that spread to the brain die, which form new tumours, and which cells do not form tumours, but remain within the brain. You can find out more here. This is my second year supported by the TBCRU, and happy to be participating in the Dress for the Cause event in 2019.
Veronica Dubois is another TBCRU trainee that is an MSc Candidate in Medical Biophysics. She is co-supervised by Dr. John Ronald and Dr. Paula Foster at Western University. Veronica’s project focuses on developing molecular imaging techniques to study the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells. A cancer cell therapy made up of immune cells that have been modified to find and kill cancer cells in the body. Her work involves adding reporter genes to CAR-T cells to enable their detection during treatment using non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging and bioluminescence imaging. The valuable information provided by these imaging techniques will aid in the development of new CAR-T cell therapies that are more safe and effective against breast cancer. You can read more about her project here. Veronica also participated in the Dress for the Cause event last year and is happy to be taking the lead on this event again
Nourhan Shalaby is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, under the supervision of Drs. John Ronald and Timothy Scholl. Nourhan exploits the stiffness property of breast cancer, which is commonly used by women for self-assessment, to develop a stiffness-sensing cancer-activatable cell system. The cell system is genetically engineered to specifically target cancer lesions and activate expression of reporter genes that can improve detection of tumour lesions. Using widely available medical imaging technologies, such as PET and/or MRI.
Furthermore, the cell system can be genetically modified to include a therapeutic component to allow for the treatment of breast cancer at earlier disease states. This is Nourhan’s first year as a TBCRU trainee, and she is looking forward to assisting with fundraising and event efforts in the coming year! Stay tuned for future blog posts highlighting Nourhan’s work.
Lastly, another new TBCRU trainee joining us is Julia Gevaert. Julia is an MSc student in the Department of Medical Biophysics, also under the supervision of Dr. Paula Foster. Her research project aims to investigate the way breast cancer spreads using Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI). This brand-new technique can detect iron labelled cells in areas that remain hidden in other imaging techniques, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). “I will be labelling breast cancer cells with iron nanoparticles and monitoring their movement throughout the body into lungs, brain, and bone. This study will help us understand how tumours start to grow early after cancer spreads. More blog posts highlighting Julia’s work will be available soon.
Now that you’ve met us, we’d love to have you join us in our fundraising efforts. If you would like to support the Breast Cancer Society of Canada this year, please visit dressforthecause.ca to register yourself or your team and get involved! Are you already registered? Great! Let us see your fundraising efforts by posting your photos and experiences on social media and using the hashtags #DressfortheCause and #ResearchMatters.
We’re looking forward to sharing this experience with you!