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‘Longer, fuller lives’

Trio of graduate researchers receive funding for cancer research breakthroughs


By Jeff Green

Three graduate students are pursuing training as cancer researchers, thanks to new awards from the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute (BHCRI).

The funding supports projects such as developing better screening guidelines for colorectal cancer patients; the creation of an app to help treat insomnia among cancer patients; and investigating the role of novel genes in head and neck cancers.

The recipients are Kazeem Adefemi, a PhD student with Dr. Peter Wang, professor of epidemiology, Division of Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine; Samlau Kutana, a master of science student with Dr. Sheila Garland, a clinical psychologist and associate professor, psychology, Faculty of Science, who is cross-appointed to the Discipline of Oncology, Faculty of Medicine; and Patrick Pearson, a master of science student with Dr. Thomas Belbin, associate professor and GSK Research Chair, Discipline of Oncology, cross appointed with the Division of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine.

The recipients and the titles of their research projects are below.

1/ Kazeem Adefemi

Research focus: Factors affecting colorectal cancer screening uptake and screening outcomes among older adults in Newfoundland and Labrador

Photo: Submitted

2/ Samlau Kutana

Research focus: User-Centered Development and Testing of a Smartphone App to treat Insomnia in Cancer Survivors

Photo: Submitted

3/ Patrick Pearson

Research focus: Characterizing the tumour suppressive properties of Krüppel type zinc finger gene ZNF154 in head and neck cancer

Photo: HSIMS

‘Calibre of research’

Each recipient is receiving studentships from the institute’s Cancer Research Training Program (CRTP), which provides stipend support over the next two years.

“Through the CRTP, BHCRI is directly supporting the next generation of cancer researchers,” said Dr. Sherri Christian, BHCRI’s new assistant scientific director in Newfoundland and Labrador and a former CRTP trainee.

Dr. Christian is also an associate professor, Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Science, cross-appointed with the Department of Biology, as well as the Faculty of Medicine.

“Funding local trainees directly increases the calibre of research performed locally. Breakthroughs can happen anywhere and local research just might be the key that supports the next major finding in cancer treatment or prevention.”

According to the BHCRI, Memorial currently has seven trainees participating in the CRTP, which provides cancer research training opportunities for students across Atlantic Canada.

Many of those who have completed the program have become leaders in their fields, holding prestigious positions at academic institutions, in industry and in health care. Learn more here.

Cancer research support

The Canadian Cancer Society’s JD Irving Limited – Excellence in Cancer Research Fund is supporting the Memorial graduate students.

“The past year has shown us that supporting each other is what matters most. We’ve come together to look after one another — and do what it takes to keep our friends, neighbours and loved ones safe,” said Jim Irving, co-CEO of J.D. Irving, Limited. “This donation is about supporting cancer research that is the key to helping our loved ones live longer, fuller lives.”

The Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute exists to foster a collaborative, productive and capacity-building cancer research effort in Atlantic Canada.

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