Dr. Mark Basik
Multitasking in the fight against breast cancer
Dr. Mark Basik, a clinician, surgeon and researcher at the Segal Cancer Centre, certainly has his plate full. His dedication to the eradication of breast cancer sees him and his colleagues focusing on 3 main areas of interest.
Firstly, he is doing work on analyzing blood samples from cancer patients , taking them before surgery and comparing it with blood taken after their surgery, when the tumor has been removed, looking for a signature for the presence of cancer. This is laying the groundwork for the potential development of a blood test to detect breast cancer at an earlier stage.
One of the results of this work was the discovery of a blood biomarker that was found in patients who subsequently benefited from a drug that had fallen out of favour in treating cancer. This work is in the validation phase but looks promising and is a good example of the new trend toward personalising medicine.
A second area of Weekend-funded study for Dr. Basik is the tumour microenvironment. He is investigating how the cells that surround a tumour impact that tumours survival. In understanding this system, there is the possibility of discovery of new therapeutic targets for new or existing drugs.
Finally, Dr. Basik most recent work is looking at resistant tumours. In a 3-year, Quebec-wide study, tumours will be biopsied both before and after chemotherapy treatments and the team is hoping to explain why tumours are or become resistant.
Dr. Basik’s important work in breast cancer still needs your support.
Dr. Celia Greenwood
Looking for patterns
Dr. Greenwood is the most recent winner of the Weekend to End Breast Cancer Distinguished Scientist award and she comes to the JGH from the Hospital for Sick Children and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health in Toronto. She is a statistician with research interests in methodology for the analysis of genetic and genomic data. Her methodological work spans family studies looking for patterns of inheritance of disease-causing genes, case-control studies looking for associations between anonymous markers and disease status, gene expression studies examining differences between patient groups or tissues, and estimation of copy number variation in the genome.
She led the statistical analysis team in a genome-wide association study of colorectal cancer, where a new locus was identified conferring increased risk. In the context of that study, the team proposed and used a novel stratified method for assessing false discovery rates, and developed a computationally-efficient method for empirically estimating large numbers of p-values for haplotype-disease associations.
Currently, she is collaborating with researchers at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), and the Lady Davis Institute (LDI) on analysis methods for copy number variation in ovarian and breast cancer tumours. In ovarian cancer, the goal is to find the best approach for identification of regions of the genome that are commonly altered in particular tumour pathology subtypes. The methods will help in finding genes that are likely to be driving tumour progression.
Dr. Marc Tischkowitz
From the clinic to the lab and back again; all thanks to the Weekend.
Dr. Marc Tischkowitz, a geneticist-oncologist from the United Kingdom, was awarded the very first The Weekend to End Breast Cancer Distinguished Scientist Award in 2005.
Dr. Tischkowitz’s work focuses on the 5-10% of breast cancers that are strongly hereditary. These cases are often affect younger women and can be linked to other cancers such as ovarian, prostate and pancreas cancer.
His work as a clinician and a researcher allows him to take cases that present in his clinic and investigate them in the lab. This approach allows him to give answers directly back to the patients and families involved and can also lay the groundwork for research into the other, more standard types of breast cancer.
In 2006, Dr. Tischkowitz was part of an international, Weekend-funded group that linked a recently discovered gene called PALB2 to breast cancer. He was part of a team that then went on, in separate Weekend-funded studies, to discover a specific mutation of this gene in breast cancer cases within the French-Canadian population. The team also linked PALB2 to pancreas cancer and his current work continues on these themes. While mutations in the PALB2 gene are rare, studying these families has helped us to understand why women from some families are at increased risk of breast cancer.
Dr. Tischkowitz’s important work into these hereditary cancers still needs your support.
Dr. Raquel Aloyz, Ph.D.
Following the bad cells to understand how to kill them better
Raquel Aloyz is a research scientist with a keen interest in understanding the mechanisms involved in the fundamental processes leading to cytotoxicity and death of cancer cells to chemotherapy. One of the key problems of chemoterapy is resistance developed by cancer cells. Dr Aloyz is exploring the alterations leading to resistant to anticancer agents which are the result of changes in networks rather than in single pathways. Her Weekend funded work is not focused on a single piece but aims to have a larger view of this extremely complicated process.
In the past, her Weekend funded work has focused on a crucial molecule called Xrcc3 which is involved in repairing DNA damage in cells. She showed that cancer cells need Xrcc3 to repair the damage produced by chemotherapeutic agents and to survive. In a follow-up, Weekend funded study she recently discovered that this molecule is involved, not only in facilitating DNA repair and survival to chemotherapeutic agents but also is involved in the basic process giving rise to the malignancy.
The next step of this project will be to validate these findings in patients' samples utilizing the tumour bank in collaboration with Dr Mark Basik. Another important objective is to find better combinations of chemotherapeutic agents that will kill better breast cancer cells expressing higher levels of Xrcc3.
Dr. Aloyz’s important work to understand drug resistance in human breast cancer cells still needs your support.
Meet Nancy Drummond N, MSc
Pivot Nurse for Gynecologic Oncology and Clinical Nurse Specialist
A pivot nurse (or nurse navigator) is with the patient from the moment that they are diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer. She is available to support the patient and their family throughout the entire trajectory of care.
Nancy works in close partnership with other nurses and professionals of the interdisciplinary team to help the patient and their family meet the patient’s needs. She also works to facilitate an open communication with the team to ensure continuity of care. She is available for on site and phone consultations to assess the patient’s needs (biological and psychosocial); teach them about their disease, investigations, and treatments; and guide them in each step of the process. Nancy works to teach patients about symptom management and can refer them to other professionals or resources as needed.
Dr. Walter H. Gotlieb
Walter H. Gotlieb completed his medical degree summa cum laude at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, in his native Belgium; where he went on to obtain board certification in Ob-Gyn.
Following two years at the National Institutes of Health, where he obtained the National Cancer Institute Award of Outstanding Performance, he performed a three year fellowship in Gyn-onc at UCLA. He was then recruited by the by Tel Aviv University, Tel Hashomer Hospital, where he co-founded and built up the Department of Gynaecologic-Oncology from 1994 to 2003.
In 2003, he was recruited by McGill University. He obtained license to practice in Europe, Israel, California, and Canada. In addition to his clinical responsibilities, he is involved in scientific research in ovarian cancer as a Project Director in the Lady Davis Research Institute and Senior Scientist of the Montreal Center for Experimental Therapeutics and Cancer. His efforts focus on translational research and novel therapeutic tools for ovarian cancer, and together with Dr. Lau they have been the pioneers of “robotic” surgery in gynaecologic cancer in Canada.
A recipient of twelve national and international awards in the area of cancer research, Dr. Gotlieb is well published with over 80 peer-reviewed manuscripts in reputable international journals. Dr. Gotlieb presently sits on the executive council of the International Gynecologic Cancer Society, and is the secretary treasurer of the Gynecologic Oncology Society of Canada. He is senior editor of the International Journal of Gynecologic Cancer. His prior involvement with medical societies includes the executive council of the Israel Gynecologic Oncologists, the executive council of the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of Canada, the SGO 2006 program committee, the International Committee of the SGO, and Vice President of the Association des Gynécologues Oncologues du Québec.
Dr. Gotlieb is presently Associate Professor and the Director of Surgical Oncology at McGill University.
He is the proud father of five boys, and his passion is to help people. He loves his work, his collaborators and his patients, and it shows. The first characteristic that Dr. Gotlieb looks for in teammates is to be “a mensch”, a decent person who loves his fellow humans. He feels blessed to work in a culture that encompasses compassion and high standards of care for all.