Gairdner Foundation- high school student online lecture

Tuesday, March 7, 2023 11:50 am - 12:50 pm EST

Dr. John Dick

Online lecture for high school biology students: "Stem Cells Play a Role in Human Leukemia from Origin to Relapse."

Speaker: John E. Dick. Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and University of Toronto. Toronto, CanadaThe Canada Gairdner Awards celebrate the world’s best biomedical and global health researchers. These award-winners present lectures to researchers and students across Canada.

Dr. Dick is a well-established pioneer of cancer stem cell biology, through which he has transformed our views of the origin and nature of cancer and laid the foundation for new approaches to cancer therapy. Join us online to hear him share about leukemic stem cells and the future of cancer treatment.

  • Tuesday, March 7, 2023
  • 11:50am to 1:10pm (lecture followed by Q&A)
  • Online, link provided to teachers March 6
  • Register your interest

Lecture summary: 

In our research, we have found that leukemia is made up of different types of cells with different characteristics. One type of cell is responsible for initiating and sustaining leukemia growth; they are at the root of cancer. These characteristics are similar to stem cells and so we have called them leukemic stem cells. We have found that leukemia stem cells have properties that make them resistant to most current forms of therapies so that cancer continues to grow from the root. These characteristics of the leukemic stem cells, which we call ‘stemness’ is responsible for patients’ response to treatment. The focus of our research is to understand the nature of the leukemia stem cells using a variety of methodologies and ways of characterizing these cells. One way we do this is to develop disease markers that can be used to manage treatment and improve care for patients with these cancers. We aim to find genetic defects that will help to better classify tumors and then to use this classification to determine which types of therapy will be most effective for each subclass. In this way, patients will not be given therapies that are ineffective and new therapies will be defined based on specific properties that tumor possesses. We also use this data to identify molecular targets that make a specific class of tumors vulnerable and then to discover drugs that can be used in combination to eradicate the bulk tumor cells as well as the CSC (cancer stem cell) that lie at the root. We have developed novel, state-of-the-art methods to test the effectiveness of new drugs using experimental models that accurately reflect patient responses. These models are created by transplanting human cells into mice to create “avatars” that reflect the same diversity in responsiveness that would be seen in actual human clinical trials. Overall, our research provides us with better understanding of cancer recurrence that can reappear months or years later from the surviving leukemia stem cells. With this research, our aim is to reduce therapy failure and increase patient survival.  


Gairdner award citation:

Gairdner Foundation logo