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Dr. Juliet Daniel
Develop a prognostic and diagnostic kit for Triple-Negative breast cancer, the most aggressive form of breast cancer
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|Introduce yourself, your experience and your credentials||
Dr. Juliet Daniel is a Professor and Cancer Biologist in the Department of Biology at McMaster University. Dr. Daniel received her B.Sc. from Queen’s University and her Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia. Dr. Daniel spent six years as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Tennessee (St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital & Vanderbilt University) before joining McMaster in 1999 to establish her own research laboratory.
Dr. Daniel’s research expertise is cell-cell adhesion and signaling through transcription factors, and how their malfunction contributes to cancer. Dr. Daniel’s research led to her discovery and naming of a new gene “Kaiso”, coined from the popular Caribbean music “calypso”. Kaiso regulates the expression of genes that control cell proliferation and adhesion; consequently Kaiso’s malfunction in various human tumors (e.g. breast, colon, prostate) contributes to tumor progression and spread.
Dr. Daniel’s team is currently focused on aggressive and difficult to treat triple negative breast cancers (TNBC) that are most prevalent in young women of African ancestry and Hispanic women – groups that paradoxically have a lower incidence and lifetime risk of breast cancer. Her research team seeks to identify unique DNA mutations or markers in cells that may explain this racial disparity and which can then be developed for diagnostic tests or therapeutics for women diagnosed with TNBC worldwide regardless of ethnicity. Dr. Daniel partners with The Olive Branch of Hope cancer support service in Toronto to organize “Think Beyond ‘Love Pink’ Breast Cancer Awareness” workshops for women of African Ancestry in the GTA.
In recognition of her research, Dr. Daniel has received several awards including the Ontario Premier’s Research Excellence Award, the John C. Holland Professional Achievement Award, the African Canadian Achievement Award of Excellence in Science, the Barbados National Honor Gold Crown of Merit and a Hamilton YWCA Women of Distinction Award. She has also been featured in “Millennium Minds: 100 Black Canadians”.
|Describe your research||
Triple negative breast cancer is a subtype of breast cancer and it’s unfortunately one of the most aggressive types of breast cancer, meaning that it spreads quite quickly and aggressively to vital organs such as the brains, the lung and the liver and it’s also unfortunate because it’s disproportionately most prevalent in black women and hispanic women and consequently also has the highest mortality rate.
The reason for this high mortality rate is because there are no specific treatments for triple negative breast cancer. So breast cancers are typically classified or sub classified based on the expression of three biomarkers. These biomarkers are the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the human epidermal growth factor 2 receptor.
Tumors that express the estrogen receptor are typically treated with a drug called tamoxifen, while breast tumors that express the HER2 receptor can be treated with the drug known as Herceptin. However, the triple negative breast cancer subtype of breast tumors lacks the expression of all three biomarkers. That is they lack the expression of the estrogen receptor the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptors.
Consequently, they cannot be treated with tamoxifen or Herceptin and the only real treatment current treatments for triple negative breast cancer are standard chemotherapy as well and/or radiation therapy.
And this is why the tumors tend to be so aggressive and have such a high mortality rate in patients because there’s not a lot of targeted therapies that will address and treat triple-negative breast tumors. Which is why we’re very passionate and focused on trying to determine what is causing this racial disparity in triple negative incidents and outcomes in black women.
So if we can link kaiso definitively to this racial disparity in incidents and/or outcomes in triple negative breast cancers that will help us to maybe develop kaiso for example as a prognostic tool to determine which women are most likely to develop triple negative breast cancerand/or possibly to determine which women will have a poor outcome from triple negative breast cancer based on the expression levels of kaiso in their tumor.
|Explain its significance||
So one of our long-term goals is to develop a prognostic or diagnostic kit where we can examine kaiso expression levels in women of the African Diaspora similar to what’s done with the BRAC1 genetic test that’s currently used. To see whether or not any women in the African Diaspora with a family history of breast cancer have a higher risk of developing triple negative breast cancer.
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