Donors Make a Difference: Caitlyn Mourcos, Recipient of the impressive Canderel Graduate Studentship award

Describe your research in a few lines

Brain metastases, which occur when a primary cancer travels through the body to reach the brain are the most common form of brain tumour. Recent advances by our group discovered the existence of two types of brain metastases: minimally and highly invasive. Whereas minimally invasive brain metastases remain limited in area and are easier to surgically remove, highly invasive brain metastases spread through the brain and lead to post-resection recurrence in patients. Many studies have discovered that factors released from cancer cells and brain cells, such as growth factors and immune modulating factors (cytokines), can promote brain metastases progression. My research is focused on characterizing and intercepting this kind of crosstalk between the brain and tumor which may drive the formation of highly invasive brain metastases.

How does your research help patients and who does it help?

It is estimated that 20-40% of cancers will spread to the brain and develop into brain metastases, most frequently in patients affected by lung cancer, breast cancer or melanoma. Unfortunately, these patients suffer from poor outcomes and diminished quality of life. While current treatment options are limited for these patients, research efforts to investigate the biology of brain metastases and develop efficient and innovative therapeutic strategies are ongoing. This project is important as it will help uncover mediators of cancer-brain crosstalk, which may be exploited therapeutically for patients with aggressive highly invasive brain metastases. This knowledge is crucial given the clinical availability of targeted growth-factor signaling inhibitors and cancer immunotherapies that could disrupt this crosstalk.

How has the studentship made a difference in your life?

Studentships, such as the Canderel Graduate Studentship, contribute to my graduate student stipend, which provides critical financial support as I pursue my research project, advance my training and pursue a career in cancer research. Graduate students are at the heart of basic biomedical research in Canada. Thus, the support offered by the Canderel studentships provide critical funding to students, which alleviates financial pressure on the laboratories that provide training environments. Personally, I have a sense of pride that my research potential as a young scientist has been recognized by this award. My studentship is made possible by Défi Canderel, a fundraising initiative supporting cancer research and researchers. I am honoured to carry this award which not only helps support me financially while I pursue my training and research but also validates and acknowledges the impact that my research may have on the community at large.

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