Alberta Cancer Foundation

Next Gen: Novice Support

Devinderjit Kaur is a fourth-year oncology PhD student who has been working in the research labs of Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute since 2009. This fall, Kaur will receive a Meltzer Memorial Tuition Fellowship, which pays the tuition for two successive semesters at the University of Alberta for students that have passed their PhD candidacy exams in the department of oncology. She passed hers in October 2012.

novice_story
Devinderjit Kaur and other oncology researchers may be able to determine where and why things go wrong in cancer cells. If successful, it’s a discovery that could prevent cancer or at least stop it from spreading.
Photo by Ryan Girard

Kaur’s principal investigator at the Cross is Dr. Gordon Chan, who oversees her work in the lab and assigns research projects to her, like one of her current studies on the protein Spindly. “All normal cells divide but their division is regulated and controlled by cell-cycle checkpoints,” Kaur explains. “In cancer cells this control is lost for some reason and we’re trying to understand how this cell-cycle control is regulated by proteins [like Spindly].”

By understanding normal cells and their controlled checkpoints, Kaur and other oncology researchers may be able to determine where and why things go wrong in cancer cells. If successful, it’s a discovery that could prevent cancer or at least stop it from spreading.

Kaur hopes to submit her first manuscript for review this summer based on her findings of cell-cycle control in the Cross’s molecular biology lab.

Rob Meltzer, president of CTL Concrete Technologies Ltd., continues to oversee the fellowship, created in 1985 with the Alberta Cancer Foundation in memory of his father, Dr. Herbert Meltzer. Dr. Meltzer started the first half of his 50-year medical career studying and treating tuberculosis. The last half was focused on lung cancer treatment and education.

“In my dad’s memory, my mom started a Dr. Herbert Meltzer Memorial Tuition Fellowship,” the younger Meltzer says. “That fund was designated for oncology treatment research.”

With that funding, Meltzer says the most interesting outcome he’s heard of is that young researchers developed a test, used today, for health-care professionals to determine the efficacy of further treatment (such as additional surgery, chemo, radiation, for example) for breast cancer patients. This test can save a lot of patients from the stress and guesswork regarding future procedures.

With Kaur’s upcoming manuscript submission and further Spindly research, who knows what the future holds for her or cancer patients? And with her tuition taken care of for the next two semesters, she can focus on her studies and add to the great findings young oncology researchers are making every day.