Training the next generation of cancer researchers –
With the generous support of our partner organizations, the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute is pleased to introduce the newest recipients of Cancer Research Training Program (CRTP) awards. The CRTP annually supports approximately 40 trainees pursing cancer research within Atlantic Canada. The program brings together a broad spectrum of research, where trainees can discuss their work and interact with peers. Since inception in 2009, the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute (BHCRI) has awarded over $6.7M in stipend support to 190 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and medical residents pursuing cancer research careers within Atlantic Canada. Through CRTP, trainees have access to a curriculum designed to expose trainees to all aspects of cancer research. Trainees are provided with opportunities to hear from cancer survivors and a range of health-care professionals caring for cancer patients. CRTP is unique in its breadth and regional scope. CRTP trainees also have the opportunity to serve on BHCRI committees, providing them with opportunities to develop leadership skills, gain an appreciation of decision making processes such as peer review and contribute to the overall operation of BHCRI. Trainees are able to meet others with whom they might not otherwise connect, and have gained new colleagues. “My recruitment as a post-doctoral fellow to Dalhousie University was supported via BHCRI’s Cancer Research Training Program (CRTP). Though various professional development opportunities provided by the CRTP platform, I was able to nurture many of the skills to become an independent cancer researcher”, says Dr. Shashi Gujar, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
Building careers in cancer research, locally and globally
Five CRTP alumni now have faculty positions here in Atlantic Canada and are positioned to train (or are already training) the next generation of cancer researchers. Dr. Shashi Gujar (CRTP 2008 – 2010), Dr. Paola Marcato (CRTP 2004- 2006), Dr. Daniel Gaston (CRTP 2014 – 2016), Dr. Sherri Christian (CRTP 2009 - 2011) and Dr. Patrick Murphy (CRTP 2015 - 2017) have supervised a combined 17 CRTP trainees since starting their independent cancer research careers. “I was offered an independent research position in the Department of Biochemistry at Memorial University as a direct result of my CRTP-supported research. BHCRI has continued to support my research into how different cancers are fundamentally regulated”, says Dr. Christian.
CRTP trainees have gone on to varied professions including medicine, careers in industry and academia and can be found across the globe and right here at home. Dr. Krysta Coyle (CRTP 2014 – 2015) is a postdoctoral fellow at Simon Fraser University. Krysta remains focused on cancer research. Her current postdoctoral project utilizes a variety of molecular biology and bioinformatic tools to explore the landscape of alternative splicing in B-cell lymphomas. An independent investigator position is in Krysta’s future.
Originally from Prince Edward Island, Dr. Patrick Murphy (CRTP 2015 – 2017) is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Prince Edward Island. Dr. Murphy’s new lab in the Department of Biology, will combine mass spectrometry, proteomics and metabolomics to understand the biology of cancer and the immune system. Says Dr. Murphy, “BHCRI provides a sense of pride in the contributions we make to cancer research in Atlantic Canada.”
Academic positions are not always the route of trainees however. For others a science career in industry beckons.
After graduating with his PhD in Pathology, Dr. Moamen Bydoun (CRTP 2013 – 2015) headed west to BC Cancer where he was a research scientist. But the east coast called with a position at IMV Inc, where Moamen has been since 2019 as Research Associate in Product Development. Moamen’ s research typically focuses on studying a unique oil-based delivery platform (DPX) that empowers the body’s immune cells to specifically-recognize and fight different types of cancers.
The skills learned through CRTP provide the building blocks for success, regardless of career direction.
Applications are reviewed by an interdisciplinary expert review committee comprised of BHCRI members representing our diverse geography and disciplines. Reviewers rank applications based on the training and track record of the applicant, the research environment and the research proposal and its relevance to cancer. BHCRI thanks the members of the Scientific Review Panel for their significant time and effort in reviewing these applications.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
The Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute is committed to diversity in all aspects of its operation, including our people and our support of the full spectrum of cancer research. BHCRI recognizes that many groups are under-represented in research. We are committed to increasing diversity and inclusion in research, and strive for diversity on all our committees, panels and any events that we organize or plan.
Joining the Cancer Research Training Program in January 2021 are:
Nick Dawe, Biomedical Engineering (Brendan Leung lab) – “Fabrication and validation of a sandwiched spheroid platform to preserve tumour heterogeneity for in vitro drug screening” (Funding provided by the Helyer/Williams studentship, named through an anonymous donation to the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation)
Dr. Smitha George, Department of Microbiology and Immunology (Francesca Di Cara lab) – “Defining conserved metabolic networks that promote abnormal growth and division in tumorogenesis using the genetic model system Drosophila Melanogaster” (Funding provided by the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation Sawyer Endowment)
Kateryna Kratzer, Department of Pathology (Graham Dellaire lab) – “Exploring the relationship between homologous recombination and chemotherapy sensitivity” (Funding provided by the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation C. MacDougall Endowment)
Vishnupriyan Kumar, Department of Pathology (Shashi Gujar lab) – “HLA ligandomics of pulmonary-only metastatic prostate cancer (PO-mPCA): Implications for precision medicine” (Funding provided by the Telus Motorcycle Ride for Dad)
Modeline Longjohn, Department of Biochemistry, Memorial University (Sherri Christian lab) – “Real-time monitoring of pediatric B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) disease progression: an extracellular vesicle-based liquid-biopsy approach” (Funding provided by GIVETOLIVE and Memorial University)
Danick Martin, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Universite de Moncton (Gilles Robichaud lab) – “Functional Characterization of Pax-5 circular RNA in B Lymphocytes Malignancies” (Funding provided by GIVETOLIVE and New Brunswick Health Research Foundation). Danick is also the Linnea Veinotte honorary CRTP trainee.
Dr. Sina Mazinani, Departments of Pediatrics and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (Kirill Rosen lab) – “PPAR gamma antagonists as tools for blocking progressing of ErbB2-positive trastuzumab-resistant breast cancer” (Funding provided by Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation Rosetti Endowment)