Dr. Jeanette Boudreau

Dr. Jeanette Boudreau

Dr. Jeanette Boudreau

Inflammation, Infection & Immunity, Cancer, Molly Appeal

Targeting viruses and cancer

Immunologist Dr. Jeanette Boudreau brings a wealth of knowledge about Natural Killer (NK) cells to Dalhousie Medical School from her previous post at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York City. She’s taking this knowledge to the task of programming NK cells to selectively target and destroy cancerous and virus-infected cells, in collaboration with Dr. Andrew Makrigiannis and other colleagues at Dal.

“NK cells are complex, highly variable white blood cells that differ not only within a single individual but also from person to person,” notes Dr. Boudreau, an assistant professor in the departments of Microbiology & Immunology and Pathology. “This means we can influence different NK cells to attack different kinds of viruses and cancers, and transfuse NK cells from one person to another to maximize their effect.”

Dr. Boudreau combines NK cells with patients' cancer cells obtained from the tumour bank at the QEII - as well as virus-infected cells. She runs the samples through a flow cytometer to analyze the interactions between the killers and their targets. She is enthusiastic about the powerful new Fuidigm C1 cell-analysis equipment being purchased through the 2017-18 Molly Appeal, as well as improvements to the tumour bank that will be supported with the proceeds.

“Cancer cells are just as heterogenous as NK cells, even within a single tumour," Dr. Boudreau says. "Unique features of cancer cells and immune cells in a patient's tumour are strong indicators of their prognosis and what treatments are most likely to work best for them. Enhancements to the tumour bank and our cell-analysis technology will position us to be national leaders in advancing the science of personalized medicine for cancer."

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