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Oleksandra Kaskun – Studentship – 2017

Oleksandra Kaskun is an Undergraduate Science Student at University of Toronto

Oleksandra’s project has been generously supported by Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada Donors

Oleksandra shared why she applied for this Studentship in this article.

About the project

Project title: “Targeting Bevacizumb resistance via LIVE-mediated vascular mimicry in Glioblastoma”

The outcomes for patients with glioblastoma (GBM) remain dismal as disease recurrence after surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, occurs at 6 months, and most patients succumb to disease progression at just over one year. As GBM is a highly vascular disease, treatments were created using anti-angiogenesis inhibitor bevacizumab, however, the early excitement for bevacizumab has been tempered by findings that its effects are non-sustained. Cancers are able to directly give rise to new blood vessels (angiogenesis), through a process known as vascular mimicry. In our previous work, we identified a novel long non-coding ribonucleic acid (lincRNA) that we named LIVE, which mediates normal blood vessel maturation and directs glioma stem cells toward a vascular fate. The proposed hypothesis is that vascular mimicry is mediated by LIVE, and constitutes a resistance mechanism responsible for GBM progression through bevacizumab. This project will provide insight into the mechanisms that control LIVE and clarify the effect that LIVE has on the role of vascular mimicry as an alternative form of angiogenesis on treatment resistance in GBM. Our findings could have significant relevance not only for patients with GBM, but for patients with other cancers, such as melanoma, breast cancer, and colon cancer, in which vascular mimicry plays a role in cancer progression.

About Oleksandra, in her own words…

Oleksandra - Research Studentship 2017Brain tumour research excites me as it allows me to integrate my curiosity about the structural complexity of the human brain with my passion for molecular biology. Glioblastomas are aggressive, fast-growing tumours that have been outsmarting brilliant scientists, and I have been granted the chance to contribute to the war against them.

Being awarded a Brain Tumour Research Studentship will not only allow me to improve upon and add to my research skills, but will also grant me the opportunity to work alongside talented scientists, develop a better understanding of the complex control system of cancer cells, and make a promising contribution to brain tumour research. By being immersed fulltime in this project, I will be able to explore and experience medical research, the career path I aspire to follow, as medical research will provide me with the tools to improve the lives of cancer patients, in addition, to promote my inquisitive nature.

On behalf of my supervisor, Dr. Sunit Das, and myself I would like to thank Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, Taite Boomer Foundation and all of the donors who make this program possible, for offering me the opportunity to make my impact on brain tumour research.

Project Update

Oleksandra shares an update on her Studentship so far in this research poster.

Final Report – November 2018

I am extremely grateful for having been awarded the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada Research Studentship and having the opportunity to contribute to Glioblastoma research as part of Dr. Das’ team at the Hospital for Sick Children. This award has had a significant impact on my personal and professional growth. Being responsible for my own project, with all of its successes and obstacles, I learned to be patient, resilient and to persevere, as well as to celebrate the little victories as they come. Throughout my two summer terms, I learned many molecular biology techniques, such as RNA extraction and q-RT-PCR, as well as broader research techniques, like consulting literature, planning experiments, and writing about my findings. Moreover, I saw first-hand the interconnectedness of research and medicine, and was able to contribute to research that will hopefully positively impact patients with this brutal disease in the near future. This experience has further intensified my interest in research and the skills I have developed will assist me on my path to becoming a clinician-scientist.

I would like to thank my supervisor Dr. Sunit Das and the team for their continuous support, mentorship and teaching throughout my studentship. I would also like to share my gratitude for Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, Taite Boomer Foundation and all of the donors, who make this studentship possible and advance the fight against cancer.

Read more about the research in this final report and see the research poster.