Overview

My current research focuses on exploring chromosome abnormalities in patients diagnosed with acute leukemia.

Acute leukemia is the most common cancer affecting children. Although the outcome of treatment has improved substantially in recent decades, there remains approximately 20 per cent of children treated for leukemia who relapse and have a poor prognosis.

My research aims to use high resolution microarray analysis to better identify the genetic changes associated with acute leukemia. I am particularly interested in determining if there are genetic alterations unique to treatment-resistant leukemia. Obtaining a detailed understanding of the genetics of acute leukemia will enable other researchers to develop targeted, personalized treatments with greater success rates and less harmful effects.

Research

Current projects
Acute leukemia has been well characterized genetically, largely due to the successful implementation of cytogenetic techniques to identify large chromosomal abnormalities, the detection of which has proven important in terms of diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. There has been an effort to use high resolution genomic profiling to identify novel genetic alterations that contribute to leukemogenesis.

Several microarray-based techniques for the genome-wide assessment of DNA copy number alterations (CNA) are now routinely used in the study of cancer genetics. Currently, the Cytogenetics Laboratory at C&W uses numerous cyotogenetic techniques, including karyotype, fluorescent in-situ hybridization, and more recently microarray to provide a comprehensive genomic analysis of pediatric acute leukemia. The power of microarray is that it can identify small CNA's and well as regions of copy number-neutral loss of heterozygosity (CN-LOH).

Currently, all leukemia’s are evaluated in the Cytogenetics laboratory and CMA is performed. Established clinical thresholds are used for identifying CNAs. The aim of the current research project is to furhter explore the existing data looking at much smaller CNAs (outside of the clinical thresholds) and assess CN-LOH. The use of SNP-arrays to identify somatically altered regions of the genome is anticipated to lead to the discovery of clinically relevant genes involved in leukemogenesis.

Grants

BCCH Telethon Award 2012, Genome wide assessment of genetic alterations in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia

BCCH Telethon Award 2010, Discovery of novel candidate genes involved in facial clefting: A pilot project

Honours & Awards

CCMG Fellowship Salary Award, UBC, 2008

Travel Fellowship for the Helene Harris Memorial Trust 11th International Forum on Ovarian Cancer, Lake Como, Italy, 2007

Linda Stevens Memorial Fund (CCMG), 2008