Supervisor: Lesley Mitchell
Project: Does chemotherapy cause the vein wall to make blood clotting proteins? A possible reason why children get blood clots when they are being treated for cancer
Medicine & Dentistry-Pediatrics
Chemotherapy is necessary for curing children's cancer, but certain drug treatments may cause dangerous side effects during treatment such as the development of blood clots. This causes the risk of blocking blood flow to major organs leading to organ damage or increased chance of mortality. For example, if a clot is formed in the brain it will not receive the oxygen required for its proper function causing a stroke. How chemotherapy causes these clots is unknown; however, as the drugs are of critical importance for the cancer treatment, we wish to prevent the blood clotting nature of the drug by studying the effect they have on the cells lining the veins. It’s hypothesized that chemotherapy is contributing to an upregulation of genes associated with coagulation factors in the endothelial cells of the veins placing the child at higher risk of developing blood clots. We will be analyzing the effect of different chemotherapy drugs by observing the effect they have on the same type of cells that line the inside of veins; however, grown in a petri dish. This will be done by observing the change in expression of coagulation associated genes and subsequent protein production of blood clotting factors between cells exposed and unexposed to chemotherapy agents. There has been no research into the effect of chemotherapy in this tissue type and thus this project will be novel research in understanding the relationship. Specific drugs may then be produced to counter the blood clotting factors that are being altered so that children may receive the treatment they require.
What motivated you to participate in this research?
I was initially drawn to Lesley Mitchell's work due to her and her lab's overall goals of improving pediatric health. I continue to be a firm believer that all children should be given the best possible opportunities. Most of us are blessed in leading relatively pain-free lives; however, there are those who must deal with chronic issues or congenital diseases. It is, therefore, necessary for research to continue evolving in order to support children throughout their development in order to award opportunities to all children. The opportunity to be a part of pediatric research and be involved in the push towards more appropriate and timely treatment of deep vein thrombosis greatly excites me. I greatly look forward to pursuing research with Lesley Mitchell as she is an expert in the field of hematology and oncology and the proposed project will address previously unreported interactions between chemotherapy drugs and gene regulation. I look forward to increasing my diversity of experience in research by working with Lesley Mitchell and the opportunity to work on this project under her mentorship will be invaluable whether I continue with an academic career in a laboratory environment or towards working in a clinical setting with children and their families.
What are your career aspirations?
I’m passionate about pursuing a career in healthcare as it is a universal and practical need that transcends ethnicity and socioeconomic status. An aspiration of mine is to be able to take my profession to other nations, to use my skills that I’ve developed here in Canada and share it with those who may not have the same opportunities as us.
How has this studentship helped you toward those aspirations?
Mitchell's Lab has provided essential laboratory research experiences by being presented with the challenges and opportunities that cannot be provided in a classroom. Exposure and mastery of performing and understanding genetic analysis techniques are highly transferable and extremely beneficial to the career path in healthcare that I plan on pursuing. To complement the technical skills that I will and have gained, I will refine my time management abilities and communication and interpersonal skills for successfully working in a team setting alongside peers and superiors. As a molecular genetics undergraduate student, working in a pediatrics lab will add unique and interdisciplinary experiences to my resume, setting me apart from other applicants in my field.