Support in part from the community has resulted in a thriving and growing Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI), operating within the ONJ Cancer Centre. With over 200 current research projects and clinical trials, the Institute offers a dynamic, progressive and collaborative environment for highly-regarded scientists like Dr Normand Pouliot.
Head of the Matrix Microenvironment and Metastasis Laboratory at ONJCRI, Dr Pouliot says his laboratory is specifically focused upon the late stage of breast cancer, called metastasis, when the disease spreads to other organs, usually the bones, liver, lungs or brain.
“If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer early, the chances for a cure are very high,” says Dr Pouliot. “But once the disease spreads to distant organs problems arise. More recently our focus has been on trying to understand how breast cancer cells spread to the brain.”
“For tumour cells to move from the breast to distant sites, like the brain, they stick to something called the extra cellular matrix, proteins that line the blood vessels and every organ in the body. This allows the tumour cells to move and migrate to distant sites,” says Dr Pouliot. “So most of the therapies I’m exploring at the moment are looking at targeting these interactions to try and block the tumour cells from sticking and homing to distant organs.”
Being in such a dynamic and growing Institute, Dr Pouliot says that the scientists and researchers really feel that they can make a valuable contribution by being so closely involved with doctors and patients and ‘bringing the laboratory bench to the bedside’.
“Being in a translational and collaborative environment is essential,” says Dr Pouliot. “You can do everything you want in the lab but until you can take it to patients you haven’t made that final contribution. I’ve got about fifteen years left to do that, and that’s what I plan to do and that’s why I am here at ONJCRI.”
“… I still believe I can make a difference. Very few researchers… can retire knowing they have cured a patient, contributed to curing a patient or extended the life of a patient. I still believe I can do that.”Dr Normand Pouliot
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