Discovery will have far-reaching impact on diagnosis and treatment

Air Date: November 30, 2022 | Length: 34:50 | Download the transcript 

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Dr. Rama Khokha

Episode Description

Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive cancer with poor survival rates. Huge contributors to the dire outcome is the fact it is typically diagnosed at an advanced stage, has only limited treatments, and no cure. This is what makes the recent breakthrough discovery of Dr. Rama Khokha and her lab so profound. In this episode of Behind the Breakthrough podcast, the UHN senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre walks us through her recent world-first discovery of successfully mapping the biology of a pancreatic cancer tumor. Dr. Khokha found three distinct tumour microenvironments [TME's] for pancreatic cancer – Resistant; Deserted; and Intermediate. The Resistant TME for example was found to be the most aggressive, while the Deserted MTE was found to resist – and grow – during chemotherapy.

Dr. Khokha's mapping now gives researchers a clear understanding of the behaviour of pancreatic cancer. And her discovery will have far-reaching impact – contributing to more research for precise new treatments, the potential for earlier diagnosis, as well applying her mapping technique to other cancers such as colorectal and lung cancer.

Dr. Khokha also speaks to her drive to make discoveries where there is unmet need in cancer research, including breast cancer prevention and new treatment and prevention of osteosarcoma – the cancer Terry Fox had.

Also in the podcast, Dr. Khokha talks about the qualities she believes are integral to a successful medical researcher, the emergence of her love of science while growing up in Delhi, India, and, setting out on her own at just 21 years of age to start anew in Canada to follow her dream - the pursuit a PhD and becoming a world-class medical researcher.

About Dr. Rama Khokha

Dr. Rama Khokha now and then  

Dr. Khokha is a Senior Scientist and Interim Research Director at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PM), University Health Network. She is Professor in the Department of Medical Biophysics, cross-appointed to the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto. Dr. Khokha received her MSc from the University of Delhi, India, and PhD in biochemistry in 1985 from University of Western Ontario. She was a postdoctorate fellow at Cancer Research Labs in London, Ontario until 1989 and a von Humboldt Fellow at European Molecular Biology Labs from 1990 to 1992. She began her independent program in 1990 at the London Regional Cancer Centre and then joined Ontario Cancer Institute, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in 1996. Dr. Khokha received Canadian Institutes of Cancer Research Studentship among other awards and was a Canadian Institutes of Cancer Research Scholar. Recently, her work was recognized by the prestigious 2014 Robert L Noble Prize from the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute.

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