The GCI is proud to announce that nineteen of its trainees have been awarded provincial funding from FRQ for the upcoming year 2023-2024! Discover the full list of GCI recipients and learn more about three of this year’s awardees – Alice Nam, Charlotte Girondel and Afnan Abu-Thuraia.

Alice Nam

Masters student in Biochemistry in the lab of Prof. William Muller

My research focuses on investigating the role of the DEPTOR protein, a recently identified endogenous inhibitor of the key regulator of cellular growth, mTOR, in breast cancer. While many tumors exhibit high mTOR activity and, as expected, also show low DEPTOR levels, paradoxically, high expression of DEPTOR in some cancer types corresponds with the worst prognoses in patients. These observations point to dual roles for DEPTOR in cancer, and potential pro-tumorigenic functions independent of mTOR. I aim to expand our understanding of the protein’s functions and interactions, and characterize its role in breast cancer progression.

The mTOR pathway is frequently dysregulated in cancers, but despite evidence implicating it as a promising target for anti-cancer therapies, many inhibitors that have gone ahead to clinical trials yield unfavorable outputs, largely due to complex regulatory mechanisms that have yet to be fully understood. As DEPTOR is a natural inhibitor of both major mTOR complexes, a greater understanding of its activity may aid in therapeutic targeting of the pathway. Further, by investigating DEPTOR’s mTOR-independent roles, this research will highlight the scope of an understudied but widely acting player in cancer and its potential as a novel therapeutic target for cancer patients.

Being funded by external scholarships gives me leverage to undertake important exploratory experiments which may otherwise be too expensive. In addition, it’s always nice to receive validation for your work from other scientists, especially during times when I am struggling with experiments or non-significant results.

I’ve always loved being actively involved in my community, both within the Institute with the Goodman Cancer Student Society (GCSS) and the Biochemistry graduate Student Society (BGSS), and beyond the walls of the Institute with the Canadian Association for Global Health (CAGH). I think it’s important to continue to improve access to STEM fields, especially among historically underrepresented groups, as well as encourage open communication between scientists, and that’s what many of the initiatives I’ve engaged with have emphasized. If anyone is involved in interesting projects and would like a hand, feel free to hit me up!

Charlotte Girondel

Postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Prof. Peter Siegel

My research focuses on two types of liver metastases that arise from colorectal cancer, one of them being of better prognosis for patients than the other. I investigate the metabolic programs that are engaged in both types of metastases to identify new targetable vulnerabilities, especially in the more common and invasive type.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide and up to one third of patients will develop liver metastases. The only treatment to date is surgical resection, however recurrences often occur. By targeting new metabolic vulnerabilities in the invasive type, we truly hope to be able to decrease metastatic aggressiveness and eventually shift their structure to resemble the less invasive type which is easier to surgically remove and gives more treatment options post-surgery. We could thereby significantly increase patient survival.

I am really honored and grateful to have received this fellowship. It is not only a great recognition of the hard work I have put in for my career and project until today, but it will also give me more financial stability. Moreover, it will enable my PI to use the lab’s finances for additional state-of-the-art experiments for the project, enabling more in-depth research in the end.

Afnan Abu-Thuraia

Postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Prof. Peter Siegel

My research focuses on the role of cancer cell mechano-memory. Previous work suggests that mechanical cues that alter cell migration and invasion can persist for a long period of time and this behavior of the cell is termed “mechano-memory”. However, limited evidence is available demonstrating the presence of such memory encoded in signaling pathways. My research work is investigating the impact of mechanical conditioning breast cancer cells on soft and stiff environments in vitro and in vivo and exploring the gene signatures associated with this mechanical conditioning process.

This work will reveal the genes that may mediate the maintenance of mechanical conditioning and hence mechano-memory. This mechanistic data is important to provide potential novel therapeutic targets to prevent site-specific breast cancer metastasis.

The FRQS postdoctoral fellowship does not only provide me with a financial benefit throughout my postdoctoral training, but also a career benefit where I see this competitive fellowship as an accomplishment that will be recognized in my career path. This fellowship will support me to pursue my research training as a postdoctoral fellow and attain my career goals of being an independent researcher.

Congratulations to all GCI trainees who received an FRQ award this year! See the full list below:

Gu, Jiayao (Claris) Bourses de maîtrise en recherche FRQNT 2023-2024
Shen, Lechen Molly Bourses de doctorat en recherche FRQNT 2023-2024
Lingrand, Marine Bourses de doctorat en recherche FRQNT 2023-2024
Abu-Thuraia, Afnan Formation postdoctorale FRQS 2023-2024
Busque, Sandrine Formation de doctorat FRQS 2023-2024
Cagnetta, Roberta Formation postdoctorale FRQS 2023-2024
Dall-Proud, Hailey Formation de doctorat FRQS 2023-2024
Diwan, Sarah-Slim Formation de maîtrise FRQS 2023-2024
Garnier, Andrew Formation de maîtrise FRQS 2023-2024
Ghosh, Promita Formation de doctorat FRQS 2023-2024
Girondel, Charlotte Formation postdoctorale FRQS 2023-2024
Han, Lingwei (Stephanie) Formation de doctorat FRQS 2023-2024
Hosein, Hannah Formation de doctorat FRQS 2023-2024
Magrill, Jamie Formation de doctorat pour les étudiants en médecine (M.D.-Ph.D.) FRQS 2023-2024
Li, Shulei (Shirley) Formation de maîtrise FRQS 2023-2024
Lingrand, Marine Formation de doctorat FRQS 2023-2024
Nam, Jisoo (Alice) Formation de doctorat FRQS 2023-2024
Wang, Yilin Formation de doctorat FRQS 2023-2024
Wu, Laura Formation de maîtrise FRQS 2023-2024