The 2024 Studentship Award competition is now closed. Thank you to those who applied. Information on the next competition will be announced in December.
For more information on this competition, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
All BHCRI award applicants are invited to complete the optional self-identification form.
BHCRI encourages completion of the voluntary self-identification form to help determine whether our programs are reaching a broad range of applicants in an effort to create an inclusive environment and sense of belonging with a diverse community of contributors. Information provided is confidential and will only be used for statistical reporting on the representation of equity groups within the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute and will not be used for any aspect of the peer-review process.
Congratulations to the 2023 BHCRI and Partners Studentship Award Recipients:
Lily Coates, Microbiology and Immunology, Dalhousie University
Supervisor: Dr. Paola Marcato
This project was funded by the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute through the Canadian Cancer Society Carol Ann Cole Comfort Heart Summer Studentship for Breast Cancer Research
“Investigating the role of THSD4 in breast cancer”
Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that uses your immune system to fight cancer. One immunotherapy drug called pembrolizumab, has shown great success for treatment of breast cancer when combined with traditional chemotherapy. Normally, without pembrolizumab, cancer cells can trick the immune system and hide from immune cells to avoid being killed.
Pembrolizumab helps to bypass the binding of cancer cells to immune checkpoints so the cancer cells can’t hide, and the immune cells can destroy them.
Because this treatment uses the patient’s own immune cells, it is very effective when there are a lot of immune cells around the patient’s tumour. Unfortunately, it is much less effective when there are few immune cells surrounding the tumour. The purpose of my research this summer is to help find a treatment that can be used with pembrolizumab to make it effective in all patients.
Chloe Cyr, Microbiology and Immunology, Dalhousie University
Supervisors: Dr. Jeanette Boudreau, Dr. Brendan Leung
(Declined by the applicant)
Tyler Herod, Medicine, Dalhousie University
Supervisor: Dr. David Conrad
This project was funded by the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute through GIVETOLIVE
“Review of reporting practices for and diagnostic utility of T and B cell clonality testing”
T and B cells are types of white blood cells in our immune system. These immune cells have structures on their surface (termed ‘receptors’) that allow them to recognize harmful cells, like cancer cells. Having an immune system that can recognize harmful cells is what keeps most people healthy. Sometimes, a T or B cell can themselves become cancerous, to form what is termed lymphoma (a blood cancer). Lymphoma develops by making exact genetic copies (i.e. clone) of these abnormal T cells or B cells. When this type of duplication happens, the lymphoma cancer cells now out-compete normal blood cells, resulting in an immune system that fails to recognize otherwise harmful cells.
When a patient comes to a specialist because of suspected lymphoma, the doctor can perform a test to detect T or B cell clones; a positive result is to be expected in a T or B cell lymphoma, respectively. However, recent studies have begun to challenge how useful this type of information is for helping detect lymphomas. At Nova Scotia Health, a specimen with a single clone of cells is reported as “positive for clonality.” However, a specimen with 2 or more clones is also reported the same way. Unfortunately, T and B cells with multiple clones can also be seen in non-cancerous situations. Currently, there are no universal guidelines for interpreting tests for T and B cell clones. Thus, there are inconsistencies in the way these tests for clones are interpreted and these inconsistencies may explain why detection of T and/or B cell clones does not always predict that a lymphoma has developed. My research project is designed to optimize test interpretation and reporting practices to improve lymphoma diagnosis and ultimately improve treatments and successful outcomes.
Holly Philpott, Surgery, Division of Thoracic Surgery, QEII HSC
Supervisor: Dr. Alison Wallace
This project was funded by the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute through Lung Cancer Canada’s Badner Family Summer Studentship for Lung Cancer Research
“Perioperative outcomes of lung cancer surgery in women: a Canadian nationwide retrospective cohort study (POWR Study)”
In Canada, lung cancer causes more deaths every year than breast, colon, and prostate cancer combined. If the cancer is found early and has not spread to other parts of the body, patients can have surgery to remove the tumour. Like with any surgical procedure, complications may occur in a small percentage of patients and these can impact quality of life. Previous studies showed that the number of complications after surgery are different between males and females. The purpose of my research this summer is to find the factors that can help predict whether complications after surgery may arise and if there are sex differences. The results from this study will help to create better treatment plans for patients with lung cancer and will hopefully improve their quality of life and survival.
Ali Salman, Biology for Health Professions, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Supervisors: Dr. Michiru Hirasawa, Dr. Kensuke Hirasawa
This project was funded by the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute through the D.W. Hoskin Summer Studentship for Cancer Research
“Low-methionine diet as a potential treatment for chemobrain”
Chemotherapy is a common treatment for cancer patients. However, chemotherapy can often cause troubling side effects such as inability to concentrate and development of memory problems, collectively referred to as ‘chemobrain’. These problems can significantly impact a cancer patient’s quality of life.
Memory problems and difficulty concentrating are not only caused by chemotherapy but are also associated with problems that arise as we get older. Several studies of aging have suggested that lowering a component of diet, termed methionine, can alleviate memory and concentration problems. Methionine is an essential part of proteins and is found in common foods, particularly nuts, beef, cheese, fish, pork, eggs, and dairy, all of which are consumed in high quantities in the average North American diet. Studies show that lowering methionine in diet can alleviate memory and concentration problems due to aging. Because both cancer treatments and aging cause the same types of problems for our brain function, my research will investigate if a diet with low methionine can prevent or reverse memory and concentration problems brought about by chemotherapy.
Before subjecting any cancer patients to a modified diet, there must first be strong evidence of benefit using experimental animals such as mice. The behaviour of mice can be carefully monitored for altered brain function. Different groups of mice will undergo the same chemotherapy treatment but will be assigned to different types of diets, one normal and one low in methionine. Over the summer, I hope to determine if feeding a diet with low methionine to mice undergoing chemotherapy treatment results in fewer problems of memory or concentration.
Ultimately, this research approach may discover dietary solutions to relieve cancer patients of chemotherapy side effects (chemobrain) and enhance their quality of life.
Hailey Stack, Pharmaceutical Science, College of Pharmacy, Dalhousie University
Supervisors: Dr. Kerry Goralski, Dr. Lee Ellis
This project was funded by the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute through the IWK Foundation’s Jeremy Ingham Summer Studentship
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting females in Canada. When breast cancer becomes deadly, it is commonly caused by cancer cells moving to new areas of the body, forming new tumours. This often is a concern with triple negative breast cancers. Triple negative breast cancers lack certain proteins that are found in other forms of breast cancer, making triple negative breast cancer very hard to treat because they are unable to respond to certain medications. The goal of my project is to understand the effects a natural compound called jadomycin B, which has been found to kill triple negative breast cancer cells. The effect of jadomycin B is improved when it is given with a drug called a celecoxib, a drug normally used to treat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. We will test combinations of jadomycin B and celecoxib on human triple negative breast cancer cells grown on petri dishes. This research will advance our understanding of jadomycin B as an anticancer agent and how it can target human triple negative breast cancer.
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Dr. David Hoskin: A BHCRI Founder, Continues to Contribute
LtoR: Lia Massoeurs, Melanie Coombs, David Hoskin and Rikki Clark
BHCRI Honorary Senior Scientist, Dr. David Hoskin, with D.W. Hoskin Summer studentship recipients Lia Massoeurs (2022) and Rikki Clark (2021) and Rikki’s supervisor Dr. Melanie Coombs. Dr. Coombs herself is a former graduate student of Dr. Hoskin’s.