Dr. Francis Rodier, an associate professor of molecular and cell biology at the department of radiology, radio-oncology and nuclear medicine at the University of Montreal, is studying how ovarian cancer cells respond to the damage caused by radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
In response to treatment, damaged cells have many options; they can repair themselves, they can die, or they can enter a state of permanent growth arrest called “senescence”. Dr. Rodier is particularly interested in this process of senescence, where cells stop growing but don’t die.
“Nobody really knows what is going on inside tumours during treatment. We know if a tumour is regressing or not, but we don’t really understand what’s going on inside,” explains Dr. Rodier. “By analyzing tissue samples from patients pre- and post-treatment, we can characterize different cancer cell responses to therapy and whether senescence has an impact on treatment success and patient survival.”
Dr. Rodier is now mentored by TFRI’s Translational Cancer Research Project, led by Drs. Anne-Marie Mes-Masson and Diane Provencher, at the Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de l’université de Montréal (CRCHUM), and Dr. David Huntsman (BC Cancer Agency). Using the COEUR project’s biobank of tissue samples, his initial goal is to determine how much senescence occurs within cancer cells in response to treatment and to identify some biomarkers that could label this process. Any biomarkers found could potentially be used to follow-up treatment evolution in real time or even predict how well a patient will respond to a given treatment.
“Being part of the TFRI network is a huge advantage. It allows me an opportunity to collaborate with other established Canadian researchers that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. I am trying to focus more and more on applying my research to the patient. Learning from Anne-Marie, David and Diane is incredibly important as my background is in a completely different type of science,” says Dr. Rodier.
TFRI project co-leader Dr. Anne-Marie Mes-Masson, director of cancer research at CRCHUM, is delighted that Dr. Rodier has taken an interest in ovarian cancer. “Our CRCHUM biobank has a rich resource in terms of cell lines, cultures, and tumour samples, and Francis’s research will make excellent use of this data.”