High-grade serous ovarian cancer is an aggressive disease with a high relapse rate (80-90%) and a low survival rate (30%). Patients with the best prognosis tend to present with tumors infiltrated by a diverse team of immune cells that includes B cells, responsible for the production of antibodies. However, the way these immune cells collaborate to control tumor growth remains poorly understood. Using single-cell sequencing to capture gene expression at a single-cell resolution, I will profile immune cells isolated from 50 ovarian tumor specimens. With this dataset, I will (i) identify prognostic B cell subpopulations and (ii) determine how B cells interact with other immune cells to eliminate tumor cells. Next, I will isolate antibodies produced by tumor-infiltrating B cells and try to identify what they recognize on tumor cells using immunoprecipitation-mass spectrometry (IP-MS) and phage immunoprecipitation sequencing (PhIP-seq). My findings will provide unprecedented insights into the inner workings of the immune system in patients, thereby informing the design of new immunotherapies that boost antitumor immunity and promote long-term survival of patients.
Why did you decide to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship at UBC? Did you consider other opportunities?
Although I applied to several post-doctoral fellowships, UBC was my top choice. I wanted to work on a multidisciplinary cancer research project, so I was looking for a research center with a nice collaborative spirit and a wide variety of expertise. If you think about it, this is basically the description of BC Cancer! Additionally: I get to discover two cities, Vancouver and Victoria.
What specifically attracted you to your research group?
After studying T cells in antitumor immunity, I really wanted to switch gears and focus on one of the newest players in this field: B cells. Dr. Nelson is a world-renowned expert on this topic so picking his research group was the most logical thing to do!
What advice do you have for new postdoctoral fellows?
First, never give up! Second, dare to pursue crazy ideas but don’t fall in love with them. In other words, be your harshest critic by trying to prove yourself wrong rather than right. If you are indeed right, your paper is going to be rock solid. Finally, don't forget to have fun at work and outside of work!
What do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy reading, writing, origami and practicing shodō (Japanese calligraphy). I'm also a huge fan of yoga and hiking! Oh! and I love orcas!
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your postdoctoral fellowship?
Making new discoveries! Working on a research project can be tough: nothing works, nothing makes sense. But sometimes, through hard work and (let's face it) a bit of luck, it clicks!! Regardless of the scale of the discovery, those Eureka moments are among the most thrilling I have ever experienced!
What does receiving this award mean for your career?
Receiving this award means two things for my career: (1) a huge accomplishment given that this is one of the most prestigious awards in Canada and (2) an opportunity to pursue research questions I am passionate about.
What do you think the next step in your career will be?
Be principal investigator or a hiking guide, I’m still debating!