Meet the Researcher: Dr. Vasudeva Bhat

Meet the Researcher: Dr. Vasudeva Bhat

Breast Cancer Society of Canada Written Blog Post Questionnaire 2022: Dr. Vasudeva Bhat

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself (i.e. name, current degree program/department, supervisor/lab, previous education/experience etc.).
My name is Dr. Vasudeva (Vasu) Bhat, and I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the
Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology at Western University. I am co-supervised by Dr.
Alison Allan and Dr. David Palma. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Manitoba.

2. Why is the TBCRU Studentship Award important to you, and how does it advance your research?
This award is very important to me as a researcher and I am both honoured and grateful to
receive this award. It gives me a sense of responsibility as well as provides recognition for
the work we do. As a trainee, it takes the pressure away from the finances and allows me to
focus on my research. Breast cancer is an important healthcare concern worldwide and
supporting researchers and trainees such as myself provides much-needed support in these
challenging times. I want to thank the Breast Cancer Society of Canada for this initiative and
their steadfast support.

3. What is the objective of your research project and what problem(s) you hope to solve?
The objective of my research is to test if blood from breast cancer patients could be used to
identify individuals who respond better to a specialized type of radiation treatment. This
could eventually help in developing more personalized treatment plans that improve the
outcome of breast cancer patients whose disease has spread to specific sites in the body
such as the lung, liver or bone.

4. In a few lines, please describe your research project.
In some breast cancer patients, cancer can spread (metastasize) to one or two organs, but
with only a small number of new tumours. We call this the “oligometastatic” state, and it is
believed that patients with oligometastatic cancer can be treated and even potentially
cured using targeted treatment approaches including a specialized type of radiation call
stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR). My work investigates whether a patients’ blood
contains accurate indicators of whether or not they have oligometastases and/or are good
candidates for treatment with SABR. The indicators in the blood that we are analyzing
include circulating tumour cells, circulating tumour DNA and host immune cells. We are
assessing these indicators and comparing them to patient survival rates and disease
progression after SABR treatment.

5. Have there been any changes to or any advancements in your research since your project began?
Yes, actually, quite a few! We have been able to recruit a total of 107 patients with 4-10
oligometastases to a Phase 3 clinical trial, in collaboration with several Canadian and
international cancer centres. In addition, I am working on two additional breast cancer

projects, one focused on understanding the role of the lung microenvironment in
influencing breast cancer stem cell activity and metastasis and the other focused on
identification of new molecules that could help in enhance the effects of radiotherapy.

6. Have you had an opportunity to present (or publish) your research to your peers or the broader research community? Was it at a national or international meeting or in some other way?
I recently received a travel award (Hellenic Society of Liquid Biopsy & University of Athens)
to present my research at the “Advances in Circulating Tumor Cells” international
conference held at Greece in the fall of 2021. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 travel
restrictions, I was unable to attend the conference. However, I was able to present my
research at the “International Society of Liquid Biopsy III Annual Congress Liquid Biopsy”
virtual meeting instead.

7. If you received feedback following your presentation how has it helped you and your research?
Discussing my research with a broader audience always helps me look at my project from a
different perspective. This also helps me identify limitations and further improve the quality
of my research.

8. How will your research be applied in the clinic or in a real-world setting? How will patients benefit from the results of your work?
Identification of a treatable group of oligometastatic patients is very crucial, and blood-
based indicators could make this possible. Therefore, in the future we hope that a simple
blood test panel could be used to help determine the oligometastatic state and how to best
treat it.

9. Tell us about your involvement in the Breast Cancer Society of Canada fundraising events (Dress for the Cause, Mother’s Day Walk).
I participated in the Mother’s Day walk/One Billion Steps Challenge (May 2021). I was able
to able to raise over $1,000 to support breast cancer research. I was also involved in the
virtual Dress for the Cause events organized during breast cancer awareness month
(October 2021). In addition, I was a member of the Breast Cancer Trivia Night organizing
committee. This year I am looking forward to participating again in the 2022 Mother’s Day
Walk/One Billion Steps Challenge to raise funds and encourage others to support breast
cancer research.

10. What are your hobbies? What are you currently reading, watching or listening to outside of the lab?
I am very passionate about photography. On the side I am also an avid Marvel comic
universe enthusiast!

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