Jessica Bennett

Supervisor: Roseline Godbout

Project: Understanding why neuroblastoma tumours become resistant to treatment


Wolfville, NS

Degree program:

Bachelor of Science with Honors in Physiology

What interested you in the summer studentship program?

Being part of a research-intensive undergraduate degree program, I decided to jump-start my research experience via the summer studentship program. I was drawn towards the Godbout Lab because their research concerned pediatric neuroblastomas, a topic of interest to me since one of my career aspirations is to be a clinician-scientist in pediatric oncology. Furthermore, the opportunity to work with Dr. Godbout, a leading expert in the field of oncology, was an invaluable experience. The Summer Studentship Program provided an opportunity for a more guided transition into a research project course in the same lab, as well as an extended period of discovery and applied learning.

How has your studentship helped you towards your career aspirations?

The studentship has granted me an opportunity to engage in clinical research, and surround myself with individuals who are equally passionate about the field of pediatric oncology. Through the Summer Studentship Program, I was able to develop both my practical and communicative scientific abilities. My confidence, deductive skills, and consistency as an experimenter have greatly improved over the course of the summer. In addition, I have been provided with the ability to investigate firsthand current issues in subjects of interest to me.

Lay abstract:

Neuroblastoma—a type of cancer that develops from developing nerve tissue—is responsible for 15% of pediatric cancer deaths, with over 60% of children diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma passing away before the age of five. Amplification (increased copies) of the MYCN gene is found in about 25% of neuroblastomas and is associated with high-risk in neuroblastoma. DEAD box proteins play key roles in all cellular functions related to expression of proteins in the cell. Previous research undertaken by the Godbout Lab indicates that one particular DEAD box gene, called DEAD box 1 or DDX1, is expressed at high levels in high risk neuroblastoma. The goal of this research project is to investigate the role of DDX1 in neuroblastoma cell survival. To do this, we will reduce DDX1 levels in neuroblastoma cells to see whether this affects cell survival. We will also see how reduced DDX1 levels affects how neuroblastoma cells respond to radiation treatment and chemotherapeutic drugs. Finally, we will examine the pathways that drive DDX1 function in neuroblastoma cells. Through this research, we will gain an understanding of how neuroblastoma cells become resistant to treatment, which is critical for the development of more effective treatments for children with high-risk neuroblastoma.