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Karl Narvacan – Bourse de stagiaire de recherche 2016

Karl Narvacan is a Medical Student at the University of Alberta.

Karl’s project has been generously supported by a gift from the Taite Boomer Foundation

About the Research

Project title: “Evaluation of nCounter technology in copy number variation analysis for the integrated classification and predictive prognosis of diffuse gliomas”
Our research aims to evaluate a new clinical method in performing copy number variation (CNV) analysis through the novel nCounter technology to aid in the integrated classification of diffuse brain tumours, including Astrocytomas, Oliodendrogliomas and Glioblastomas.  Currently, the gold standard technology in CNV analysis for brain tumours is Fluorescence in Situ Hybridization (FISH), which suffers from several disadvantages including labour-intensiveness, low CNV resolution, slow throughput and high tissue sample requirements.  With the development of this novel technique for clinical use, the genetic classification of brain tumours, leading to an efficient yet reproducible and specific measurement of CNVs as diagnostic, prognostic and predictive oncological markers.  Ultimately, this pioneering study on improving diagnostic efficiency in laboratory analysis aims to improve therapeutic stratification and overall quality of health care approach for brain tumour patients.

About Karl in his own words…

Being awarded a Brain Tumour Research Studentship gives me a tremendous opportunity to pursue my passion in clinical neuro-oncological research during the summer. This scholarship will allow me to work with some of the leaders in brain tumour pathology in the university, who work tirelessly in improving the efficiency and accuracy of the health care approach surrounding brain tumour diagnoses.
As a first-year medical student, the next two summers will be my last opportunities to work in the summer months as a student researcher before we go into the wards as clinical clerks. Thus, receiving the studentship will provide myself an avenue to work on my research interests through a promising and pioneering project that hopes to innovate laboratory medicine and neuropathology. As an aspiring clinician-scientist with a passion for the neurosciences, being awarded a Brain Tumour Research Studentship will unequivocally further my understanding of brain tumour pathologies, which I can hopefully translate into practice to directly benefit patients.
I sincerely thank Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada for giving me this opportunity to work on brain tumour research, and to all the donors who graciously support basic and clinical research.

Project Update

The purpose of the study was to develop and evaluate a new analytical method in performing copy number variation (CNV) analysis through the novel nCounter technology to aid in the classification, therapeutic management and prognosis of diffuse brain tumours.

The first phase of the project was obtaining tissue samples, preparing them for analyses, followed by processing with nanoString nCounter technology. This required myself to shadow and be part of the laboratory team in Molecular Pathology under Dr Izevbaye, where Fluorescence In-Situ Hybridization (FISH) is performed on tissue samples. Being part of the diagnostics lab allowed me to learn about the technology that is used in FISH, and learn how to contrast the process with the nCounter technology in looking at copy number variations in specific genomic loci.  Read more…

Final Report

Our results support previous data from our group that copy number variation analysis by novel nCounter technology is a comparable alternative to the standard Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (FISH) technique. Based on our results, detection of EGFR amplification is highly specific and is thus able to minimize false positives in molecularly diagnosing glioblastomas. Further, detection of 1p/19q deletion shows promising results, with 100% sensitivity, enabling FISH to minimize false negatives in predicting increased tumor chemosensitivity. Further assay optimization is necessary to improve false positive rates in the detection of chromosomal arm deletions and false negative rates in genomic amplification.

Read Karl’s final report

About my experience

Being awarded a Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada Research studentship has been a huge honour. As a curious medical student trying to make contributions to medicine, being recognized and empowered to conduct research has had significant impact in my education so far. This project has immensely improved my ability to think scientifically, plan out experiments and be independent yet responsible in moving “my” project forward. There have been several roadblocks in this project, but that is something every researcher—much so students like me—encounters. But learning from our mistakes is integral to our growth as aspiring clinician-scientists. Not everything will turn out perfectly; not everything will always go our way. Realizing that early on in our training makes us adaptable and resilient, characteristics that are vital to someone aspiring to have a career in healthcare.

My sincerest gratitude goes to my supervisors Dr Frank van Landeghem and Dr Iyare Izevbaye from the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology for their support, teaching and mentorship. Special mention goes to Kim Formenti within the Department, whose help was critical in the completion of this project. Lastly, my heartfelt gratitude goes to the Taite Boomer Memorial Brain Tumor Foundation and Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, whose unwavering support to education and research is critical in the fight against brain tumours. Thank you all.