Meet the Researcher: Tasnim Reza

Meet the Researcher: Tasnim Reza

Breast Cancer Society of Canada Written Blog Post Questionnaire 2022: Tasnim Reza

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 Tasnim Reza, and I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario. I am working under the supervision of Dr. Michael Boffa. I hold an Honours BSc in Biological Science (Life Science) from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and I completed Masters of Medical Biotechnology from the University of Windsor. After this (and before coming to Western), I worked at the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research (OICR) as an intern in the Strategic Planning department.

2. Why is the TBCRU Studentship Award important to you, and how does it advance your research?
It is an honour to be recognized by this prestigious studentship. This award allows me to connect with other researchers working towards the common goal of advancing breast cancer research. Moreover, it provides me with a platform to share my ideas and gain knowledge from the variety of expertise provided by my fellow TBCRU awardees. This award also provides me with financial relief to focus on my research.

3. What is the objective of your research project and what problem(s) you hope to solve?
Our project aims to study the anti-metastatic effect of a specific protein called TAFI (thrombin activatable fibrinolysis inhibitor) during breast cancer and to develop a novel protein-based drug to reduce the spread, or metastasis, of breast cancer cells.

4. In a few lines, please describe your research project.
Metastasis is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths and is the most dangerous step in cancer progression. Metastasis occurs when cancer cells spread from the primary breast tumour site to other parts of the body such as the lung, liver, bone and brain. No drugs currently exist that specifically stop metastasis. My research focuses on a novel way to potentially prevent this process. Metastasis depends in part on a group of proteins called proteases that sever the protein connections between tumour cells and allow them to chew their way through tissues so that they can move around the body. We will examine how two proteins, TAFI and thrombomodulin, work together to prevent these proteases from becoming active, thereby preventing metastasis. This research includes studies of breast cancer cells in test tubes, examination of breast tumours from human patients, and measurement of metastasis in genetically engineered mice. Finally, we have designed a new protein drug based on thrombomodulin, and we will test whether this new drug is effective in targeting metastasis of breast cancer cells in mouse models

5. Have there been any changes to or any advancements in your research since your project began?
Our project is in the preclinical phase, and we have observed that thrombomodulin designed to activate only TAFI specifically in the breast cancer microenvironment can reduce metastasis in mice.

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 have had the opportunity to present these data at two research conferences in London, including at the Oncology Research & Education Day as an oral presentation, and at the Immuno-Oncology Symposium as a poster presentation.

7. If you received feedback following your presentation how has it helped you and your research?
Feedback and insights from the community allow me to think about research from a new perspective. The comments and questions also help me see different research methodologies I can apply to validate my results.

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?
After our preclinical studies, we are hoping to develop this protein-based drug further to be tested in a clinical setting for its ability to reduce metastasis in breast cancer patients.

9. Tell us about your involvement in the Breast Cancer Society of Canada fundraising events (Dress for the Cause, Mother’s Day Walk).
I enjoy participating in fundraising events. I have hosted and organized a trivia game night with my fellow trainees as a Team TBCRU in the Dress for the Cause event.

10. What are your hobbies? What are you currently reading, watching or listening to outside of the lab?
I like cooking, reading, and playing board games with my friends and family. I also love watching movies, especially horror movies! In my free time I like to volunteer for various organizations such as Nourish Bangladesh and organize/participate in science communication events like Science Rendezvous.

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