Dr. Charles Ishak, PhD.

LIA2017-8 (1)Charles completed an Honour’s Bachelor of Science at the University of Toronto prior to initiating graduate studies within the laboratory of Dr. Fred Dick at Western University and the London Regional Cancer Program in 2011. As a graduate student, Charles discovered that a frequently targeted tumor suppressor protein regulates repetitive sequences within ‘non-coding’ regions of the genome to maintain genomic integrity. Following defense of his thesis in 2017, Charles joined the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre as a postdoctoral fellow, funded in-part through a 2017 Princess Margaret Excellence Postdoctoral Fellowship. His current research explores how tumor suppressor functions at repetitive regions direct clonal evolution and promote immune evasion.

Charles has engaged in scientific outreach through the London CCS RIOT team, authoring numerous articles, participating in outreach videos, and volunteering with ‘Let’s Talk Cancer’. Charles hopes to continue his scientific outreach efforts through the Toronto CCS RIOT team.

Outside of the lab and beyond science outreach, Charles stays active through hockey, and enjoys exploring live music events around the city.

Douglas Chung, HBSc, PhD Candidate, Department of Immunology, University of Toronto.

douglas-chung-pictureDouglas is currently a research assistant working in Dr. Pamela Ohashi’s Lab at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. He recently received his Honours Bachelors of Science at McMaster University with a double major in biology and psychology, and minor in biochemistry. Douglas aspires to become a neuro-oncologist and a scientist conducting research in cancer immunotherapy, a type of treatment that uses a person’s immune system to fight cancer. He is currently interested in exploring methods to increase effectiveness of T cell immune therapies against cancer by overcoming the ways that tumours suppress the immune system. Through a collaboration with other scientists, he is also studying the role immune cells play when they are situated within ovarian tumours. Beyond lab work, Douglas also has a passion for community outreach and science communication. Through RIOT, he wishes to increase accessibility of findings from current cancer research to patients, their families, and the community at large. Douglas is also a rock climbing enthusiast, a competitive fencing athlete, and a pilot.

Joan Miguel Romero, HBSc, MSc Candidate, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto.

JoanHaving lost his father to pancreatic cancer, Joan Miguel decided to pursue a career in cancer research and medicine to further understand the mechanisms of cancer and help patients suffering from this lethal malignancy. He received his Honours Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto in 2017, specializing in Pathobiology and majoring in Immunology. He is currently in the Master’s program in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto. His research interests lie in understanding the role of the immune system in the tumour microenvironment of pancreatic cancer.. He is conducting his work at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research as part of the PanCuRx Translational Research Initiative, led by Dr. Steven Gallinger. Ultimately, Joan Miguel intends on pursuing a career in oncology, as he is passionate about bringing medical and scientific research together to drive novel therapeutics for cancer patients.

Joan Miguel has been actively involved in raising awareness for cancer, as well as cancer research. During his undergraduate degree, he spent his summers researching prostate and pancreatic cancer. Combining this with his passion for cancer outreach, last year he served as co-president for Vic For a Cure, a cancer charity initiative at the University of Toronto. He is thrilled to be a part of RIOT to continue raising awareness for cancer research to the public, as well as working with the team to help inspire the next generation of cancer scientists.

Joan Miguel enjoys playing both metal and classical guitar, weight training, coaching archery at the university, and travelling.

Dr. Kinjal Desai, PhD.

desai_photoKinjal received her Bachelor of Science from St. Xavier’s College, India, and her Doctorate of Philosophy from Dartmouth College, USA. Her thesis work uncovered genetic changes that modified a key gene involved in breast cancer, which promotes progression of the disease. This fuelled her interest in understanding how signals within a cell dictate how genes can turned on or off in cancer. She is now a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, where she works on medulloblastoma, the most commonly occurring malignant brain tumour in children. Her research goal is to learn more about the reliance of brain cancer cells on these key signals in order to develop potential treatments to treat brain cancer.
Kinjal believes that good research is incomplete without the effective communication of the scientific findings to the community at large and is excited to be an active participant at R.I.O.T.. Outside of research, Kinjal enjoys baking, tennis, and classical concerts.

Joseph Longo, HBSc, PhD Candidate, Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto.

joseph-longo-pictureJoseph received his Bachelor of Science degree from the Honours Molecular Biology and Genetics program at McMaster University, and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto. Under the supervision of Dr. Linda Penn at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Joseph is studying whether statins, a family of drugs commonly prescribed for the management of high cholesterol, can be used to treat cancer. He is using both cell line and patient-derived tissue models to identify the types of cancer that are most sensitive to statins, and how to maximize the anti-cancer potential of statins without harming normal cells.

Joseph joined the Toronto RIOT team because he believes that progress in cancer research should be communicated to the general public in a way that is clear and easy to understand. Through volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and RIOT, Joseph hopes to promote awareness of the cancer research being conducted across Canada and around the world, and effectively communicate the relevance of this research to society.

Outside of the lab, Joseph is an avid swimmer and enjoys reading and traveling.

Julia Jaramillo, BMSc, MSc Candidate, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto.
Julia_BIP_1773Julia obtained her Bachelor of Medical Sciences degree from Western University, where she completed an honours specialization in Biochemistry. It was here that she became involved in scientific research, working in Dr. Ilka Heinemann’s lab. Here, she investigated the regulation of RNA, an important intermediate between DNA and protein, using fission yeast as a model organism.

Julia is currently pursuing her Master of Science degree in Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto, working in the lab of Dr. Peter Dirks at the Hospital for Sick Children. Her project investigaates Glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive primary brain cancer in adults. She is working to understand the functional differences between patients’ tumours to identify sensitivities that can be exploited for therapeutic purposes.

From organizing fundraising events to conducting research, Julia has actively pursued cancer research since she was a high school student. She is passionate about sharing knowledge and mentoring young people interested in science. Outside of the lab, Julia enjoys playing volleyball, traveling and spending time with family.

Erika Luis, MSc.


Erika completed her BSc at McGill University with an honours specialization in Biochemistry. There, she gained her first insights into cancer research by completing an undergraduate thesis with Dr. Julie St-Pierre. Her project investigated the relationship between mitochondrial metabolism and cell migration in breast cancer. Erika went on to complete her MSc degree at the University of Toronto, in The Department of Molecular Genetics, with a focus on understanding the therapy-resistant population in the brain tumour medulloblastoma. Currently, she is a researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Peter Dirks at the Hospital for Sick Children where her research is centred on understanding the developmental origins of medulloblastoma and how anomalies during development can lead to downstream tumour initiation.

Erika is passionate about increasing public understanding of science and disease and values new opportunities that allow her to do so. Outside the lab, Erika can be found riding her bike in search of the city’s best cup of coffee.

Zeynep Kahramanoğlu, MSc., Princess Margaret Cancer Centre

BioRiotZeynep received her B.Sc. at the University of Guelph, specializing in Molecular Biology and Genetics. Later, she earned her master’s degree in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine with a collaborative degree in Developmental Biology from Western University. Her master’s thesis focused on the effects of chemotherapy on late-stage ovarian cancer tumour cells and surrounding tumour blood vessels. Her experience as a researcher developed through several institutions including Mt. Sinai Hospital and the Princess Margaret Cancer Research Tower, where she studied a variety of cancers such as osteosarcoma and breast cancer. She currently works as a research technician in a tumour immunology lab. Zeynep was also a member of the London RIOT team during her master’s studies. She is a passionate writer and enjoys writing about scientific concepts, research and discoveries. Zeynep is a firm believer in open and accurate communication between researchers and the general public, and as such, greatly values the RIOT initiative for community outreach.

In her spare time, she enjoys kickboxing, windsurfing and reviewing restaurants (as a completely unqualified food expert).

Sangeetha Paramathas, HBSc, PhD Candidate, The Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto.

Sangeetha Bio Pic.jpegSangeetha completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto in immunology and cell biology. She is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Toronto, in the Department of Medical Biophysics under the supervision of Dr. David Malkin at the Hospital for Sick Children. Her current research work involves identifying and testing the use of liquid biopsies as a way to detect and manage cancer. Liquid biopsies, most notably blood tests, are a promising way to monitor and identify cancers by characterizing free-floating cancer cells and/or tumour DNA in the bloodstream. Sangeetha is testing this technique specifically for the hereditary cancer syndrome, Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS). Through her research, Sangeetha hopes that this highly sensitive and specific way to screen for cancer will enable earlier detection and diagnosis of cancers in patients who have a very high risk of developing cancers.

Sangeetha is actively involved in the non-profit sector through many different initiatives. She is involved with science outreach with the charity S.E.E.D.S., which offers life science education to youth across Ontario to aid in the empowerment and development of health leaders and advocates through social innovation. Funnily, just when she was looking for outreach initiatives related to cancer research, she discovered the RIOT team and jumped at the opportunity. Through RIOT, she is able to share her work as a cancer researcher and speak to cancer research with various members of the community through workshops, presentations and blogs. She hopes to share the notion that cancer research is an ever-changing field with cool science being performed on a daily basis!

Dr. Patty Sachamitr, PhD.

PattyPatty received her Master’s of Science from University of York, UK in 2011 and a Doctorate in Philosophy in Stem Cell Biology and Immunology from the University of Oxford in 2016, where she investigated the differentiation of immune cells from stem cells for HIV-1 immunotherapy.  She is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow working jointly in Dr. Peter Dirks’ lab at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and at the Structural Genomics Consortium. She is currently engaged in the discovery and validation of drugs for the treatment of  Glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive brain cancer in adults.

During her Masters and PhD, Patty was actively involved in organizing conferences, networking events and communicating research. She believes that scientific outreach is key to increasing public awareness of the importance of scientific research and is essential to inspire young students to pursue STEM careers.

Outside the lab, Patty is passionate about yoga, scuba diving, travelling and cooking.

Dr. Kevin Lan, PhD.

KevinKevin completed a Honour’s Bachelor of Science at the University of Toronto, where he learned about cancer research through a 4th year independent research project under the supervision of Dr. Jason Moffat. During this time he also developed an interest in the intersection of computer science and medicine, and the potential for genomics to further our understanding of basic tumour biology. He is now finishing a PhD degree in the lab of Dr. Peter Dirks at The Hospital for Sick Children. His project is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and is focused on understanding how human glioblastoma tumours escape frontline therapies and develop recurrences which are drug resistant. Kevin is especially excited to work with such a group of bright and motivated individuals as the Research Information Outreach Team, and look forward to discussing cancer research with communities in Toronto.



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