UPEI student receives Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute funding
The following media release is distributed by UPEI Communications for the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute.
Halifax, NS--Thanks to a graduate scholarship from the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute (BHCRI), a UPEI graduate student will be pursuing research on breast cancer.
Olivier Philips, an MSc student with Dr. Patrick Murphy in UPEI’s Department of Biology, is the first UPEI recipient of a graduate scholarship of $29,750 through BHCRI’s Cancer Research Training Program (CRTP).
This CRTP award will provide Philips with a stipend for the next year and a half while he completes his master’s degree. His funded project is “Targeting physiologically available serine biosynthesis pathway metabolites in triple negative breast cancers.”
Breast cancer is the most common and second deadliest cancer in Canadian women. Cancer cells, including breast cancer cells, exhibit changes in metabolism compared to normal cells. Philips’ research will examine metabolism in breast cancer cells that results in production of unusual compounds that may, in turn, provide a new way to interfere with cancer growth and spread.
“Triple negative breast cancer is challenging to treat and has few treatment options,” says Dr. Judy Bray, VP Research at the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS). “With the support of J.D. Irving, Limited, CCS has awarded an Atlantic Canada Research Grant to enable Dr. Murphy’s team, including Olivier Philips, to explore a promising new therapy with potential to improve outcomes for people with triple negative breast cancer.”
Murphy, who is Philips’ supervisor, is himself a former CRTP trainee, having received stipend support while a postdoctoral fellow at Dalhousie University.
“Having been a CRTP trainee myself, I can attest to how valuable the BHCRI support is in the development of young scientists—in both skill development and networking with researchers in the region,” says Murphy.
“I look forward to the training that the CRTP has to offer and the opportunity to work within the talented network of trainees in Atlantic Canada. The generosity of J.D. Irving, Limited has inspired me to help others and give back to the community. I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as you have helped me,” says Philips.
The Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute, through their Cancer Research Training Program, provides trainees with access to a program designed to expose them to all aspects of cancer research. Philips is one of three UPEI students who joined the training program in September 2021.
Philips’ studentship is provided by funds from the Canadian Cancer Society’s J.D. Irving, Limited—Excellence in Cancer Research Fund. The J.D. Irving, Limited--Excellence in Cancer Research Fund is proud to support the Cancer Research Training Program at BHCRI.
“The past year has shown us that supporting each other is what matters most. We’ve come together to look after one another—and do what it takes to keep our friends, neighbours, and loved ones safe. This donation is about supporting cancer research that is the key to helping our loved ones live longer, fuller lives,” says Jim Irving, co-CEO of J.D. Irving, Limited.
Olivier Philips’ lay summary:
Breast cancer is the most common and second deadliest cancer in Canadian women. Some breast cancers depend on a protein called PHGDH in order to grow, or metastasize. Most drugs designed to block this protein have failed. Finding new targets for cancers that depend on PHGDH would enhance breast cancer treatment. Several metabolites produced by PHGDH were recently discovered in the Murphy Laboratory that are also found in human blood. Whether this presence prevents PHGDH blockers is not currently known.
This project will focus on whether blood-based metabolites help cancer cells escape PHGDH blockers. To figure out how this happens, I will block PHGDH in breast cancer cells in media where the metabolites are present or absent. I will then do an experiment called metabolomics to see what metabolites the cells produced in each condition. I will then grow the same cells with metabolites that differ across conditions. In these experiments, I will then look to see how the metabolites affect PHGDH blockers. Finding these metabolites may eventually allow us to discover new proteins that can be blocked in cancers that need PHGDH to grow. Finally, the project will lead to improved understanding of breast cancer metabolism and could provide new breast cancer treatments.
About the Canadian Cancer Society’s J.D. Irving, Limited—Excellence in Cancer Research Fund:
In 2021, J.D. Irving, Limited donated $2.5 million to the Canadian Cancer Society to establish the Excellence in Cancer Research Fund, affirming the company’s longstanding commitment to invest in research in Atlantic Canada. The fund will build, strengthen, and expand cancer research potential and capacity in the region, and it will ensure that the highest quality, most promising ideas and people are supported (based on a rigorous peer review process). This enables scientists to develop and continue their critical research in Atlantic Canada and contribute to the larger national cancer research landscape.
About the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute:
Created in 2009 through a bequest to the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation, the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute exists to foster a collaborative, productive, and capacity-building cancer research effort in Atlantic Canada. The Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute brings together a diverse community of cancer researchers in pursuit of a common goal: to save lives and ease the burden of cancer on individuals, families, and society. The Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute provides a meeting place for researchers to share ideas and forge new collaborations and offers a key entry point for students seeking training and careers in cancer research. Contact: Carla Ross, Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)