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Research Highlight | July 24, 2015

Supporting future leaders in cancer research in Atlantic Canada


*This article by Dr. Alamelu Bharadwaj is part of the old TFRI Blog.

Basic science research is complex and time consuming but is the most important foundation for creating new therapies for various diseases. I have always nurtured a dream of doing cancer research since my undergraduate days back in India. This dream came to fruition and I have been conducting basic cancer research for the last 12 years. As a graduate student I worked on prostate cancer research and I am now a post-doctoral fellow researching breast cancer in Dr. David Waisman’s laboratory at Dalhousie University, Halifax.

For my post-doctoral training I received the prestigious Cancer Research Training Program award (CRTP) from the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute (BHCRI) in Halifax, Canada. The BHCRI has fostered a collaborative environment for cancer researchers in Atlantic Canada and they run a rigorous cancer research training program. The program is funded mainly through the Terry Fox Strategic Health Research Training Program in Cancer Research at CIHR and brings together students, post-doctoral fellows and residents from across Atlantic Canada.

The focus of my research is to understand how aggressive breast cancer cells spread to distant organs, which is the key challenge in treating the disease. Our laboratory wants to clarify the role of a protein called p11 which is present in higher numbers in aggressive breast tumours. The main role of p11 is to speed up the activation of plasmin, a protein that allows cancer cells to escape from a tumour, enter the blood stream and spread through the body. We study these processes using cell and animal models. Our ultimate goal is to identify targets for new therapies and also find new "biomarkers" to diagnose cancers and to predict treatment outcomes.

With the CRTP fellowship I have been able to cultivate my interests in cancer research and contribute to new understandings of breast cancer. I have developed skills and expertise in research by collaborating and networking with the cancer research community across Canada. Earlier this year I attended TFRI's Annual Scientific Meeting in St. John's, a great stage to present my research to the scientific community. The CRTP award has also allowed me to attend two other international and national conferences.

I am at an important stage of my career as I train to be an independent researcher. My long-term career goals are to hone my skills in cancer biology and contribute to better patient outcomes. I feel privileged to receive funding support from BHCRI and TFRI and am grateful for the opportunity to further my studies.

Dr. Alamelu Dharini Bharadwaj
Post-doctoral Fellow
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 
Dalhousie University

Terry Fox Research Insititute05072015 (72)

Dr. Alamelu Bharadwaj (front centre, in green) with her fellow winning poster presenters at the 2015 TFRI Annual Scientific Meeting. Also present, Dr. Anne-Marie Mes-Masson and Darrell Fox (centre) and Judith Fox-Alder (far right)