Story

Training next-gen cancer researchers

Supporting growth and innovation in the next generation of cancer researchers is an important part of the Canadian Cancer Society’s (CCS) research strategy. To strengthen the future of the cancer research network in Canada, CCS is working with our donors and funding partners to recruit and train cancer research trainees at the master's, PhD and postdoctoral levels. Through the unique Research Training Awards program, trainees like Chantel Mukonoweshuro are working with their supervisors to conduct cancer-related research and take part in mentorship, training and knowledge-sharing led by CCS. 

 Canadian Cancer Society's Research Training Awards

Words on screen: To transform the future of cancer, we’re investing in the next generation of researchers in Canada.

[Erica Mandato appears on screen.]

Erica Mandato: Hi. My name is Erica.

[Chantel Mukonoweshuro appears on screen.]

Chantel Mukonoweshuro: My name is Chantel Mukonoweshuro.

[Karan Parekh appears on screen]

Karan Parekh: My name is Karan Parekh.

[All three researchers appear on screen.]

Erica Mandato, Chantel Mukonoweshuro and Karan Parekh: And I’m a CCS-funded cancer researcher.

Words on screen: With support from our donors and partners, we're funding promising up-and-coming researchers through the Research Training Awards.

[Erica Mandato appears on screen.]

Words on screen: Erica Mandato, Mcgill University, Research Training Awards recipient

Erica Mandato: My project is looking at how we can design a new test for cervical cancer that catches the disease before it becomes invasive.

[Chantel Mukonoweshuro appears on screen.]

Words on screen: Chantel Mukonoweshuro, Jewish General Hospital, Research Training Awards recipient

Chantel Mukonoweshurp: My research project focuses on understanding drug resistance in tumours that have mutations in two genes or gene families.

[An image of a laboratory appears on screen.]

[Karan Parekh appears on screen.]

Words on screen:Karan Parekh, University of British Columbia, Research Training Awards recipient

Karan Parekh: My research is looking at using a novel tool called Liquid Biopsy, which provides us with a genetic picture or snapshot of the disease's current status or state.

[An image of a laboratory appears on screen.]

Words on screen: Tell us about working with your CCS-funded supervisor.

[Erica Mandato appears on screen]

Erica Mandato: I consider myself lucky to have supervisors like Dr Burnier and Dr Leung, who support me not just in my day-to-day experiments but also with publishing, presenting and in planning the next steps in my career.

[An image of researchers working on a computer appears on screen.] 

[Dr Julia Burnier appears on screen.]

Words on screen: Dr Julia Burnier, McGill University, Erica’s co-supervisor, CCS-funded researcher

Dr Julia Burnier: Part of the role that we play as research supervisors is really to support the students, to provide the tools, the techniques needed, the expertise and know-how to be able to conduct the research. We have funds to be able to conduct the work, but we need to be able to have resources to pay our students.

[An image of researchers working appears on screen.] 

[Chantel Mukonoweshuro appears on screen.]

Chantel Mukonoweshuro: Having Dr Rose's support has been very important and very valuable to me. I am also excited knowing that the CCS offers additional support through their career development workshops and teaching us about how to become better science communicators.

[An image of researchers working appears on screen.] 

[Dr April Rose appears on screen.]

Words on screen: Dr April Rose, Jewish General Hospital, Chantel’s co-supervisor, CCS-funded researcher

Dr April Rose: Through this funding program. I think she'll get to meet people who are doing all kinds of different types of cancer research, and it really sort of broadens the perspective.

[Karan Parekh appears on screen.]

Karan Parekh: Alex has been absolutely amazing when it comes to my academic as well as my professional journey.

[Dr Alexander Wyatt appears on screen.]

Words on screen: Dr Alexander Wyatt, University of British Columbia, Karan’s co-supervisor, CCS-funded researcher

Dr Alexander Wyatt: As a supervisor in research, you have a number of responsibilities, but I think one of the most important ones is to mentor the next generation of researchers and kind of teach them the fundamentals to advance research.

[Images of a university and a computer appear on screen.] 

Words on screen: Do you have a message for our donors?

[Erica Mandato appears on screen]

Erica Mandato: And I strongly appreciate the generosity of our donors, who see the value in the work that we do as researchers to try and prevent an otherwise inevitable fate.

[Dr Julia Burnier appears on screen]

Dr Julia Burnier: We are extremely grateful to all the donors who have donated to the Canadian Cancer Society and have supported our work.

[Chantel Mukonoweshuro appears on screen]

Chantel Mukonoweshuro: I'm very grateful for the donations made by many of the donors that support CCS and its mission. They're really investing in a future where new discoveries can be made.

[An image of researchers working appears on screen.] 

[Dr April Rose appears on screen.]

Dr April Rose: I would really want to express sincerest gratitude for the donations made, and we're just going to keep working hard.

[Karan Parekh appears on screen]

Karan Parekh: Thanks to their support, cancer researchers like ourselves are equipped to venture into research that at one point was considered impossible.

[An image of a book with the words “cancer worldwide” appears on screen.]

[Dr Alexander Wyatt appears on screen.]

Dr Alexander Wyatt: Thanks for your continued support. It's very much appreciated by us and by the patients.

Words on screen: Nothing big gets solved by one person. Support the next generation of cancer researchers.

[It takes a society and the Canadian Cancer Society logo appears on screen and below  the words visit cancer.ca/donate]

Words on screen: A special thank you to our partners:

  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • Canadian Partnership Against Cancer
  • Cancer Research Society
  • The Terry Fox Research Institute
  • CancerCare Manitoba
  • Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation

A passion for experimental medicine and understanding the world

Chantel Mukonoweshuro in front of tall bushes. 
Chantel Mukonoweshuro

When Chantel was growing up, she developed a deep interest in science. Through volunteering over the years and personal experiences with members of her community, she saw firsthand the social impact a cancer diagnosis can have on families. She pursued her early passion for science and cancer research throughout university and began studying experimental medicine at McGill.  

I became really intrigued by the concept of drug resistance and learning about why and how it happens. And at the same time, I was equally interested in gaining a deeper understanding of how cancer works at a molecular level.  

While applying to McGill, she discovered the research program led by Dr April Rose at the Jewish General Hospital and quickly knew she wanted to get involved.  

Advancing precision therapies by investigating resistance in tumours

Dr April Rose in a cancer research lab.
Dr April Rose

With a CCS Challenge Grant, a team led by Dr Rose is working to understand why some people do not respond to certain precision therapies and how tumours can become more resistant to treatment over time. 

Their study was being promoted on the McGill website when Chantel emailed Dr Rose, asking to be a part of her team.  

When I met with her, I realized she was very impressive,” says Dr Rose. “And it was clear that she was quite driven and focused on her goals. We had similar interests and when she said she wanted to be a clinician scientist, I couldn’t say no.  

A gene called BRAF is one of the most commonly altered pieces of DNA in cancer. Mutations in this gene are found in several types of cancer, including lung, colorectal and skin cancer. Approximately two-thirds of tumours with alterations in BRAF have the same type of mutation and can be treated with existing drugs. Dr Rose’s team is using lab techniques to identify which BRAF alterations in other tumours make cancer cells resistant to therapy. They are also testing combinations of drugs to develop new treatment strategies. If successful, this research could provide new ways of treating tumours and improving patient outcomes.  

As a member of Dr Rose’s team, Chantel is working to gain a better understanding of BRAF mutants and discover key elements that enable abnormal responses. If successful, her project could help improve current therapies to make these tumours vulnerable and more responsive to treatment for people affected by this disease. 

Recognizing the impact of donors

Because of the generosity of our donors and funding partners, Chantel is grateful to have the opportunity to work with Dr Rose. She is also looking forward to attending more CCS-run career development workshops.  

“Donors are really investing in a future where new discoveries can be made in order to provide better outcomes for patients that were not possible before,” she says.  

Dr Rose agrees, saying she feels honoured to have been funded by CCS. As Chantel’s mentor, she is grateful that CCS gives learning opportunities to people at the beginning of their careers, putting them on the path to be great researchers.  

You need to invest time and effort into the people that you’re working with in the team. The more you invest, the more you get back out of it. Then you’re better able to solve the problem and the whole process is much more rewarding.

By donating to CCS, you can help the growing cancer research community.  

A special thank-you to our funding partners:

  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • Canadian Partnership Against Cancer
  • CancerCare Manitoba
  • Cancer Research Society
  • Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation
  • The Terry Fox Research Institute