Conference strives to make Windsor a cancer research hub

A University of Windsor PhD candidate presented her research findings at a conference aimed at making Windsor a cancer research hub Sunday afternoon.

Bre-Anne Fifield, 27, has been tackling her PhD since 2009 and is hoping to finish her studies in biological sciences next month when she brings her breast cancer research to the thesis defense table.

“What we’re looking at is these drivers of cell proliferation and cell growth, which normally will allow the cell to divide,” she said, explaining her research. “And what happens when we increase levels? Will it drive formation of tumours and will it increase the ability of a cell to become tumourgenic?”

During Fifield’s presentation at the Biennial International Cancer Research Conference, she talked about a model system she created to gauge whether increasing certain regulators of cell growth and division creates tumours.

She found that an increase of the Spy1 protein, naturally fundamental in cell growth, led to increased tumour development, primarily in allowing damaged cells to grow when they shouldn’t be.

Fifield is one of many researchers brought into the Biennial International Cancer Research Conference, with presenters coming from across the province and country, as well as from the U.S. and even overseas from Egypt.

This is the second time the event has been held by the Windsor Cancer Research Group. The research group started two years ago as a partnership between the university and Windsor Regional Hospital.

“We’ve come together to form this group to facilitate cancer research in our community,” said the research group’s public outreach chair Dora Cavallo-Medved. “And to build Windsor as a centre of excellence for cancer research.”

Cavallo-Medved, a biological sciences professor and cancer researcher at the university thinks that Windsor, a border city, is the ideal place to foster international collaboration in cancer research and that the conference helps to strengthen that collaboration.

The research group recently launched their Passports: Bridging Research and Hope program, hoping to make it easier to bring tissues for research across the border. Cavallo-Medved said that they’re hoping to lay the groundwork for allowing Windsor-Essex cancer patients to hop the border for specialized clinical trials.

“Nothing is the same everyday when you go in,” Fifield said, describing her experience with cancer research. Cancer has touched her personally, having had friends and family deal with cancer in the past. “Everyone’s touched by it, so its something that you want to help treat it.”

Fifield has been able to focus a lot of time on her research, thanks to being the university’s first recipient of a fellowship from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation for $112,000 in 2011.

“Overall, you’re hoping that what you find, you can contribute to something bigger like getting better treatments and helping with patient outcomes.”

Source: Windsor Star