Manitoba Breast Cancer Research Group

Who we are

The Manitoba Breast Cancer Research Group is a multi-disciplinary group of clinicians and scientists based at the University of Manitoba and CancerCare Manitoba. The group consists of molecular and cell biologists, physiologists, pathologists, oncologist, epidemiologists, surgeons, bioinformaticians, and immunologists.

Vision Statement

To seek fundamental knowledge to improve clinical care of individuals at risk of breast cancer development and progression through innovative research.

Our Members

Sabine Hombach--Klonisch, MD, PhD (University of Giessen, Germany)

Associate Professor, Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Science, Max Rady College of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

Research Interests: breast cancer metastasis
Key words: cancer cell invasion, brain metastasis, tumor microenvironment, HMGA2, S100A4, endoplasmic reticulum stress.

Research summary: My research program focuses on cellular and molecular mechanisms of cancer metastasis. I am investigating the pathways utilized by S100A4 and HMGA2 in promoting cancer cell invasion and tumor cell survival. My lab works with patient-derived breast cancer brain metastasis cells and with human breast cancer cell lines to study how the stem cell factor HMGA2 supports cancer cell survival in the metastatic niche. I investigate the influence of endoplasmic reticulum stress on cancer cell survival during brain metastasis and how resident cells of the vascular microenvironment modulate survival and invasive behavior of breast cancer metastatic cells.

Phone: 204-789-3982
Fax: 204-789-3920

Thomas Klonisch, MD, PhD (University of Giessen, Germany)

Professor/Head, Dept. of Human Anatomy and Cell Science
Director of Histomorphology & Ultrastructural Imaging
Director of the Glioma Cell Resource Professor
Depts. of Surgery and Medical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases
Adjunct Scientist, Research Institute of Cancer and Hematology, CancerCare Manitoba Honorary Professor of Shantou University Medical College, Shantou, China

Research Interest/expertise: My lab studies molecular mechanisms which lead to therapeutic resistance in breast cancer. I study the mechanisms the nuclear DNA binding factor High Mobility Group A2 uses to promote resistance to chemotherapy and radiation in triple negative breast cancer. We are investigating novel signaling mechanisms this stem cell factor uses which affect DNA repair and genomic stability and can be  counteracted by a Synthetic Lethality treatment approach using novel and repurposed drugs. We identified Relaxin Receptors and their ligands as emerging factors of chemoresistance in breast cancer. My team has identified new ligands which bind to the relaxin receptor 1. We are exploring the role of these novel relaxin receptor ligands as mediators between breast cancer cells and the innate immune system in the breast micro-environment.

Contact information:
Dept. of Human Anatomy and Cell Science, University of Manitoba, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, Max Rady College of Medicine, 130-745 Bannatyne Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada,R3E 0J9
Head Office Tel.: +1 204 789 3893
Laboratory Tel.: +1 204 789 3981
FAX: +1 204 789 3920

Sam Kung, M.Sc. (University of Hong Kong), PhD (University of Toronto)

Professor, Dept of Immunology, University of Manitoba

Research Interest/expertise:

At University of Manitoba, Dr. Kung established a CFI-funded laboratory that currently studies natural killer (NK)-cell migrations, NK-dendritic cell crosstalk and NK-based immunotherapy in Head and Neck, and breast cancer models. He is currently the Director of two core platforms that, respectively, housed 4 collections of lentiviral-based shRNA libraires (mouse and human GIPZ or LKO shRNA clones) and provided lentiviral vector production services at U Manitoba. In collaboration with Dr. Francis Lin in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at U Manitoba, Dr. Kung has been actively creating a microfluidic platform to study NK-cell migratory properties in vitro.

Contact information:
Office Telephone: (204) 430-1301
FAX: (204) 789-3921

Department of Immunology
Max Rady College of Medicine
Rady Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Manitoba
Room 417, Apotex Center
750 McDermot Ave.,
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3T 0T5

Related websites:

Etienne Leygue, PhD (University Pierre and Marie Curie, Paris, France)

Professor, Dept of Biochemistry & Medical Genetics, University of Manitoba. Senior Scientist, Research Institute in Oncology and Hematology, CCMB

My overall research focuses on the roles played by specific genes in human breast tumourigenesis and breast tumour progression. I am currently investigating the products of the SRA1 gene. These consist of a non-coding functional RNA (SRA) which activates estrogen receptors action, and a protein (SRAP), which also acts as modulator of estrogen signaling. Interestingly, this protein also controls cell motility, through mechanisms we are trying to decipher.

We hypothesize that characterizing SRA RNA/SRAP mechanisms of action will provide new windows of opportunity to design innovative therapeutic or preventive strategies to fight breast cancer.

Key words: Breast Cancer, Non coding RNAs, Steroid Receptors, Cell imaging, Drug resistance

Contact information:

Michael Mowat, PhD (University of Alberta)

Position(s): Professor, Dept of Biochemistry & Medical Genetics, University of Manitoba,Senior Scientist, Research Institute in Oncology and Hematology, CCMB

Research Interest/expertise:
Genetics of breast cancer.  Role of the DLC1 tumor suppressor gene family in breast cancer progression and metastasis. Identification of novel drug targets. Mouse models of cancer.

Contact information:  
Phone office (204)-787-4139
Lab: (204)-787-2185
FAX (204)-787-2190

Leigh C Murphy, PhD (University of Sydney)

Professor, Dept of Biochemistry & Medical Genetics, University of Manitoba.
Senior Scientist, Research Institute in Oncology and Hematology, CCMB
Co-Director Manitoba Tumour Bank

Research Interest/expertise:
Mechanism of action of hormones and anti-hormones in human breast cancer. Mechanism of resistance to endocrine therapies in breast cancer. Estrogen receptor alpha signaling and its regulation in human breast cancer.Biomarkers of risk and progression in breast cancer. Biospecimen banking as a translational cancer research resource.

Contact information
204-787-4071 (office) 

Yvonne Myal, MSc., PhD (University of Manitoba)

Professor, Departments of Pathology and Physiology and Pathophysiology
Senior Scientist, Research Institute in Oncology and Hematology, CCMB

Research Interest/expertise
Breast Cancer Biomarkers.

Key words: Prolactin Inducible Protein (PIP); claudin1; transplantable and knockout mouse models. Tissue microarrays; immune regulation; hormones, physiology, pathology, molecular biology

Research summary: My long term research program is primarily identifying breast/breast cancer specific biomarkers and understanding the biological role of these markers in the progression of breast cancer from a localized disease to metastasis. Our research efforts over the last few years have been focused on two molecules, claudin 1, and the human prolactin inducible protein/gross cystic disease fluid protein, PIP/GCDFP-15. PIP/GCDFP-15 is now an established biomarker in the clinic for abnormal breast function and breast cancer. PIP is abundantly found in the fluid from benign cysts of the breast and varying levels have been detected in more than 90% of breast cancers. Recent studies from our laboratory show that PIP may have an immunomodulatory role. Claudin 1 is a membrane protein important for cell-cell interactions, regulating the transport of ions and nutrients between these cells. During breast cancer progression it mislocalizes into the cytoplasm. We are examining relationships between claudin 1 levels with tumour aggressiveness and survival in breast cancer patients.

Contact information:
Phone: 204-789-3874
Fax: 204-789-3808

Marshall Pitz, MD MHS

Associate Professor of Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, UM; Medical Oncologist, CCMB; Head, Clinical Research, RIOH; Chief Medical Information Officer, CCMB

Dr. Pitz is a clinical and translational researcher interested in clinical trials of novel therapies and on reducing the impact of current therapies, as well as novel data systems and informatics approaches to answer clinically relevant research questions and improve patient outcomes.

Afshin Raouf, PhD (University of Toronto)

Manitoba Breast Cancer Research Group Leader
Associate Professor, Dept of Immunology and the Regenerative Medicine Program, University of Manitoba,
Senior Scientist, Research Institute in Oncology and Hematology, CCMB

Research Interest/expertise: The overarching goals of my research program are to understand the molecular signals that regulate normal stem cell functions and how changes to these same signals results in generation of cancer stem cells. Towards these goals we have developed a novel cell culture system to model the breast tumour microenvironment and study its contributions to cancer stem cell functions. Our research efforts are also focused on understanding and deconstructing the hierarchical structure of cells in the normal and malignant breast tissue and the contribution of these undifferentiated primitive cells to breast cancer initiation and tumour progression. These insights will contribute to the development of cancer stem cell-specific target therapies.

Contact information:
Office No. 204-975-7704
Lab No. 204-975-0073