Year of Entry: 2018
PhD Supervisor: Dr. Jean-Simon Diallo
I was born and raised in Vaughan, Ontario, and then went on to complete my Bachelor of Medical Sciences at Western University. I entered undergraduate with the goal of medicine in mind. However, my passion for research also developed, starting with investigation of stem cells in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, then cell-cell interactions in fibrosis. Research became an integral part of my academic career, as did my interest in cell signalling pathways. My personal interest in cancer lead me to complete an undergraduate thesis with Dr. John Di Guglielmo on TGFβ cell signalling in invasive lung cancer. Over these years, the thrill of scientific discovery levelled with my interest in clinical care. I ultimately decided that pursuing a MD/PhD was the career direction I wanted to take. My current research interests are a combination of my past interests: designing cancer therapeutics and cell signalling events. I was drawn to the idea of translational research, being able to take scientific discoveries and developing them into real-life therapeutics. Becoming a physician scientist enables me to not only directly care for patients in clinic, but also impact patients across the globe. Outside of school, I am an avid softball player, fitness fanatic and aspiring chef.
Oncolytic viruses are a rapidly developing treatment option for cancer patients across the country. These genetically-modified viruses have the unique ability of selectively infecting cancer cells, replicating within them and triggering a response by the patient’s immune system. The result is a targeted attack on the tumour cells that not only destroys the immediate tumour, but also gives lasting anti-cancer immunity. Despite these promising characteristics, oncolytic viruses have been somewhat limited in progressing through clinical trials. The Diallo research lab specializes in the discovery and development of drugs known as ‘viral sensitizers’, which help the virus gain a foothold in the tumour and take its full therapeutic effect. We have recently discovered that compounds containing the metal vanadium act as potent viral sensitizers. My project aims to discover the mechanism that gives vanadium this effect, engineer this mechanism into an oncolytic virus and test this new virus in both cell lines and animal models. If successful, this new therapeutic could soon proceed in production and testing in the clinic.
Ontario Graduate Scholarship (2020-2021)