Dr. Graham Dellaire

Dr. Graham Dellaire

Dr. Graham Dellaire

Cancer

Fighting Cancer on All Fronts:

“Even with early diagnosis and treatment, one third of breast cancer patients will have a relapse within five years. Unfortunately, when it comes back, the cancer is usually resistant to chemotherapy,” says Dr. Dellaire, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor and whose paternal grandmother died from the disease. “Chemotherapy resistance is a serious challenge I take personally.”

Dr. Dellaire and his research team aim to:

  • Identify biomarkers that could help personalize chemotherapy and detect cancer at its earliest, most treatable stages using next-generation RNA-sequencing approaches
  • Look for ways to help tumour suppressor proteins stop cancers before they start
  • Evaluate chemotherapy resistance in breast, ovarian and prostate cancer using a novel zebrafish xenotransplantation animal model developed with Dr. Jason Berman (IWK Health Centre), and develop strategies to re-sensitize cancer cells to chemotherapy

Speeding Things Up:

Dr. Dellaire and his team use the RNA-interference (RNAi) library purchased through the 2009 Molly Appeal for cancer research to identify the genes behind chemotherapy resistance in breast cancer. “Previously, we could only screen one gene at a time. The RNAi library moves our research forward by leaps and bounds, by allowing us to screen hundreds and thousands of genes at a time,” notes Dr. Dellaire. “Once we discover which genes are involved, we can develop ways to make recurrent breast cancer cells susceptible to chemo again.”

The RNAi library will also help Dr. Dellaire and his team find ways to rev up tumour suppressor proteins. These cancer-fighting proteins are found naturally in all of our cells, but sometimes they break down and stop doing their job.

The 2013 Molly Appeal raised funds to establish a Live-cell Imaging Facility here at Dalhousie to work alongside Atlantic Canada’s first RNA-interference (RNAi) Library. This library gives researchers 70,000 genetic tools they can use to determine the function of every gene in a cell and live-cell imaging allows researchers to study the effects of cancer in live cells in real time.

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