Prof’s cancer research gets another boost
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This article was published 14/06/2022 (360 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Dr. Mousumi Majumder of Brandon University recently received a $75,000 grant from the Breast Cancer Society of Canada, which will further her team’s research into developing a method of detecting the disease in its early stages.
Talking to the Sun on Tuesday, Majumder said the new research grant was handed out through the society’s first-ever national grant competition, with the BU professor and her team being the only recipients from Manitoba.
“I did not expect that we would get it. It was very competitive from the beginning,” Majumder said, explaining that the winners of the new contest were announced in late May.
“More than the money, I’d say that the recognition and the way the competition happened, that really gave us the boost we needed.”
In terms of where the $75,000 is going, Majumder said the grant will be used to secure more student scholarships and tissue samples from cancer patients, which are both vital to ensure that the project continues.
As it stands, Majumder and her team are using the tissue samples to identify blood biomarkers that could lead to an expeditious diagnosis of breast cancer in patients.
This method could be especially useful for younger Canadian women, since they typically do not qualify for a breast cancer screening until the age of 50.
“Are we at the point where you can forget about a biopsy? No,” Majumder said. “But … we are very hopeful that within a couple years … that these markers will be sensitive enough so that a blood test can give you an early sign of breast cancer.”
Majumder has been exploring this field of study for well over a decade.
After receiving her PhD in oral cancer genetics and epidemiology from the Indian Statistical Institute and Jadavpur University in 2009, Majumder became seriously involved in cell biology work during her post-doctoral training at Western University.
Since joining BU in 2016, Majumder’s focus has narrowed to finding a simple method of detecting breast cancer and has received multiple rounds of funding to make this happen.
In late 2020, the BU professor was named a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Genotoxicology, a position that entitled her to a $600,000 grant that can be used over the course of five years.
But at that point, Majumder admitted that her research was still in its preliminary stages, with any progress being hampered by all the recent restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now that these restrictions have been rolled back nationwide, Majumder is happy to report that it is now much easier to acquire tissue samples, especially since her team is working alongside health-care professionals from the London Health Sciences Centre in Ontario.
“Initially we were struggling to get even a hundred samples,” she said. “But right now, things are loosening up and more participants are coming into the hospital.”
Moving forward, Majumder said her team’s research will also be bolstered by an over 1,200-square-foot lab that is being set up in BU’s John R. Brodie Science Centre.
This new space will give them more direct access to imaging systems, biomarker detection technology and other equipment that isn’t available anywhere else in Westman.
“We are doing really great considering that Brandon University is a small institution,” Majumder said.
“We don’t have as much as the University of Manitoba or CancerCare Manitoba, but it seems like we are doing fine with our limited structure.”
But more than anything, Majumder believes that this new $75,000 grant is a testament to the hard work being put in by her team, which includes BU students, staff and even outside groups like CancerCare Manitoba, whose members regularly provide their medical expertise.
“It’s a team effort. It’s me who is talking right now, but trust me, it’s the team doing the work in the background,” she said. “That keeps me motivated.”
One in eight Canadian women are expected to develop breast cancer during their lifetime, according to the federal government. The disease also accounts for 13 per cent of all cancer-related deaths in Canadian women.
» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson