Dr. Adrienne Weeks
Neuroscience, Molly Appeal
Eradicating brain tumours:
Dr. Adrienne Weeks seeks solutions to deadly and dangerous brain tumours
Her work as a neurosurgeon inspires Dr. Adrienne Weeks to spend as much time as possible in her lab, looking for ways to resolve both benign and malignant tumours in the resected tissues of patients’ brains.
“Glioblastoma is the most invasive and deadly form of brain cancer,” notes Dr. Weeks, who gives a diagnosis of brain cancer at least once a week. “You can’t cure it surgically, because it sends tendrils to all parts of the brain… you can only reduce tumour load. Even with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, glioblastoma remains universally fatal.”
Dr. Weeks will use the Orbitrap Fusion Mass Spectrometer, sophisticated equipment funded through Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation’s Fall 2019 Molly Appeal, to analyze all of the proteins produced in glioblastoma cells. This will allow her to examine how the cells form molecules called stress granules, which protect them from radiation and chemo.
“If we can find a way to knock out the stress granules, we will take away glioblastoma’s defence mechanism,” she says. “Then the cancer would be more susceptible to treatments like radiation and chemotherapy.”
Dr. Weeks is also on the trail of a solution to meningioma, a common non-cancerous tumour that grows in the covering of the brain.
“Meningioma is not deadly, but it can cause serious damage,” says Dr. Weeks. “It can get wound up in the nerves and blood vessels of the brain and damage whatever function is controlled in that area. So, people lose their vision, or speech, or control of their facial nerves.”
The tumour can be cured surgically 80 per cent of the time. Dr. Weeks is pursuing a solution for the other 20 per cent.
“We’re looking for genetic mutations in patients’ tumours, to see if any could be targeted with an existing medication to arrest the tumours’ growth,” she says, adding that the new state-of-the-art mass spectrometry equipment—funded through the Fall 2019 Molly Appeal—will be a big boost for her lab. “Our work will benefit from the additional expertise and capacity to sequence and analyze the DNA from our patients’ tumours.”