Promise in Cancer Research: Young Researcher Series

The dawning of a new year provides us with a natural window to reflect on the past and look ahead to the future. In 2016 the  Canadian Cancer Society’s Research Information Outreach Team (RIOT) monthly column featured a series of articles about significant achievements in cancer research in the last five years. This year we will be considering the future of cancer research through the eyes of young cancer researchers. Read more in The Londoner

Each month we will hear from another young cancer researcher. Each is unique in their area of research, their perspective in how cancer research has changed their own lives, and what they would like to see accomplished in cancer research in their lifetime. I hope you will enjoy getting to know them as much as I have.

Lee Jones
London RIOT

Possibilities Come to Life: 5 Years of Cancer Research Realized, Article #9: New Technology to diagnose hard-to-find cancer

Dr. Shana Kelley, a professor and researcher at the University of Toronto, is tackling one of the toughest questions in cancer research – how to detect cancers that have no symptoms. .. Researchers have discovered that cancer cells shed tiny particles that enter the blood and circulate around the body. Read more in The Londoner.

Three great articles: Hitting the Bulls-Eye, The Elusive ‘Magic Bullet’, and Beyond Beating Childhood Leukemia

Catch up on the latest three article in the “Possibilities Come to Life, 5 Years of Cancer Research Realized” Series.

July: Hitting the Bulls-Eye: Hybrid PET/MRI and Radiotherapy of Cancer
by Dr. Steward Gaede, John Patrick, Matthew Mouawad, and Omar El-Sherif

August: The Elusive ‘Magic Bullet’, Why Billions of Dollars Haven’t Cured Cancer
by Dr. Xin Wang

September: Beyond Beating Childhood Leukemia: Investigating Brain Development
by Haley McConkey

Possibilities Come to Life, 5 Year of Cancer Research Realized. Article #5 The Right Drug, Right Dose, for the Right Patient, Right Now

Chemotherapy is intended to kill cancer cells, in some cases with the goal of curing the patient from cancer, and in others cases to keep incurable cancer under control for as long as possible…we know that some patients experience more severe side effects than others, even at a similar doses of the same drug.

Read more about how personalized medicine is curbing this unfortunate aspect of chemotherapy and enhancing its efficacy in today’s Londoner.

New Monthly Blog by Emma Ali

  RIOT London is pleased to announce that RIOT team member Emma Ali, a 2nd year medical student at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, with an interest in cancer research will be posting a monthly blog on a variety of cancer research related topics.

Hello readers. Every month, I will be writing a new article explaining a specific type of cancer associated with a particular organ, such as the uterus. I focus on explaining new and relevant research in cancer care for that chosen malignancy by introducing and building upon the anatomy and physiology needed to understand some of the more detailed scientific findings. The first organ system to be highlighted is the female reproductive system, where we will go through how cancer commonly affects different structures within it. I hope that these articles help explain how scientists in the lab and in clinics are transforming the care that physicians provide to patients at the bedside.

Ovarian Cancer – Amplifying the Disease That Whispers

Ovarian Cancer – Amplifying the Disease That Whispers
“The disease that whispers.” This phrase has been increasingly used to describe ovarian cancer, a malignancy that provides few and subtle signs to alert individuals to its presence. After endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer is the second most common cancer in the female reproductive tract, and the fourth most common cause of death due to cancer in women.
Why is this the case?
Ovarian cancer is not as easy to locate as other gynaecological cancers. For instance, with endometrial cancer, women tend to experience abnormal and unexpected bleeding, and usually see their doctor early to figure out what is happening. With cervical cancer, women who are receiving regular Pap tests are screened for the disease; if the Pap test comes back positive, the woman has cells in her cervix that could be at risk of becoming cancerous, and she receives further healthcare interventions. As well, in the process of performing a Pap smear, a family physician or gynecologist can examine the cervix to see if there are any obvious abnormalities that may indicate a cancerous growth.
The ovaries are different because they are smaller organs that are tucked away into the pelvis, facing the spine. It is a common misconception that Pap smears are used to detect ovarian problems, but the Pap smear is only able to detect abnormal changes in the cervix. To examine the ovaries properly, during what is called a bimanual examination, the woman and the muscles in her pelvis need to be completely relaxed. It is important to note that the ovaries are typically small and difficult to find on this exam, and the natural tension of the pelvic muscles makes it more challenging to locate them.
Since the anatomy alone cannot provide all the information needed to understand and detect ovarian cancer, the answers must come from science labs and clinical research.
What lies ahead?
Scientific research on ovarian cancer is constantly providing new clues on how these tumours can be better understood, and, therefore, better diagnosed. As most ovarian tumours are found on the epithelium, or the outer surface lining, of the ovary, these outer cancers are vital to understand. Interestingly, epithelial ovarian tumours have cells that actually resemble those in other areas of the woman’s reproductive tract: specifically, the Fallopian tube, endometrium, the internal lining of the cervix, and the upper part of the vagina, which are all Mullerian structures. Mullerian structures are developed from tubes called Mullerian ducts, which are found in the female embryo and give rise to significant parts of the female reproductive tract. Previous research findings suggested that the epithelial cells on the surface of the ovary transform or mutate into cells that have Mullerian features, and that this process of transformation is a signal that these cells are likely to become cancerous. New research indicates that some types of cancerous cells on the ovary’s outer surface are coming from non-ovarian Mullerian tissues, such as the fimbriae, or finger like ends of the Fallopian tubes. This is especially promising because it may provide an intervention that can prevent ovarian cancer in women who are at high
risk. If the abnormal cells are travelling from the female reproductive tract onto the surface of the ovary, then removing the Fallopian tubes may be one method of preventing ovarian cancer. If future research indicates that this theory is accurate, this surgical option may be available to women who are at risk of specific types of ovarian tumours, while still preserving the function of their ovaries. This is an important option because estrogen from the ovaries is protective for bone health, cardiovascular disease, and neurological functioning. As such, women who choose to keep their ovaries but remove their Fallopian tubes may be reducing their cancer risk and simultaneously delaying the menopausal like symptoms that come with low estrogen.
Improving quality of life, as well as quantity of life, is an essential goal of cancer research and cancer care. Current findings about ovarian cancer seem to indicate that this might be a tangible goal in the not too distant future.


Blewitt, K. (2010). Ovarian cancer. Nursing, 40(11), 24–31.

Dubeau, L. (2008). The cell of origin of ovarian epithelial tumours. The Lancet. Oncology, 9(12), 1191–7.

Hawkins, N. A., Cooper, C. P., Saraiya, M., Gelb, C. A., & Polonec, L. (2011). Why the Pap test? Awareness and use of the Pap test among women in the United States. Journal of Women’s Health (2002), 20(4), 511–5.

Jasen, P. (2009). From the “silent killer” to the “whispering disease”: ovarian cancer and the uses of metaphor. Medical History, 53(4), 489–512.

Mays, R. M., Zimet, G. D., Winston, Y., Kee, R., Dickes, J., & Su, L. Human papillomavirus, genital warts, Pap smears, and cervical cancer: knowledge and beliefs of adolescent and adult women. Health Care for Women International, 21(5), 361–74.

Ribeiro, J. R., Lovasco, L. A., Vanderhyden, B. C., & Freiman, R. N. (2014). Targeting TBP-Associated Factors in Ovarian Cancer. Frontiers in Oncology, 4, 45.

Let’s Talk Cancer 2016

Dr. David Rodenhiser delivers the opening keynote address
Dr. Moshmi Bhattacharya leads “Understanding Cancer Metastasis”
Adam Rabalski helps students extract DNA
Dr. David Litchfield delivers the closing keynote address
Approximately 80 high school students participated in Let’s Talk Cancer in London on Tuesday May 3, 2016 . The day was co-presented by RIOT and Let’s Talk Science teams at Western University. The day’s activities were generously funded by Merck.
The day was opened by a keynote address by Dr. David Rodenhiser who provided an introduction to the basics of cancer and the multidisciplinary nature of cancer research, detection and treatment. Students then participated in breakout sessions featuring hands-on activities lead by 11 cancer researchers, graduate students or PhD candidates from various areas of cancer research.
 The day came to a close with a keynote address by Dr. David Litchfield who focused on the conditions today including technological advances, computational capacity and the resultant information explosion that are moving cancer research ahead at a previously unheard of rate.

Special thanks to everyone who made Let’s Talk Cancer (LTC) possible:  

Sponsoring Organizations
Let’s Talk Science, National Office
Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Provincial Office
Organizing Committee
Research Information Outreach Team (RIOT): Adrienne Borrie (LTC Co-Chair), Lee Jones, Zeynep Kahramanoglu, Haley McConkey, Donna Murrell and Angie Woodcock
Let’s Talk Science (LTS): Sarah Mattonen (LTC Co-Chair)
Event Day Volunteers
RIOT: Lee Jones, Adrienne Borrie, Haley McConkey, Jessica Rodgers
LTS: Yonathan Araya, Caitlin Evered, Sina Ghoreishi, Emily Kyle, Cory Lefebvre, Sally Lin, Sarah Mattonen, Michael Mehta, Ermela Paparisto and David Park
Breakout Sessions: Gurleen Chahal, Charles Ishak, Linada Kaci, Jenna Kara, Justin Michael and Sarah Mattonen
Dr. David Rodenhiser
Dr. Jerry Battista
Dr. Moshmi Bhattacharya
Adam Rabalski
Katie Parkins
Adrienne Borrie
Tom Hrinivich
Dr. Lori Lowes/Haley McConkey
Jessica Rodgers
Dr. Aaron Ward
Yoah Sui
Aren Marshall
Dr. David Litchfield
Thank you to CurioCity for providing a platform for promotional materials and registration management.
Funding for Let’s Talk Cancer provided by: