1. Who are you? Tell us about yourself.
My name is Milica Krstic. I am a recent Ph.D. graduate from the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Western University. I have worked in the lab of Dr. Alan Tuck and Dr. Ann Chambers over the course of my studies.
2. Why is the TBCRU Studentship Award important to you?
The Breast Cancer Society of Canada (BCSC) has funded my research over the past five years, through the Translational Breast Cancer Research Unit (TBCRU) studentship award. Receiving the TBCRU studentship has been very helpful financially in terms of freeing up lab funds for important experiments, as well as establishing connections with other TBCRU trainees and members of the community.
3. Tell us about your research. Why is it important?
I study a protein called TBX3, which is able to bind to DNA and control the expression of several genes. My work has shown that TBX3 is elevated in early-stage breast cancers, and has identified gene targets of TBX3 which we believe are acting to progress to more aggressive, invasive breast cancer. This is an important clinical problem, as patients with early-stage breast cancers are all treated in similarly, even though some patients may have a recurrence or progression of their cancers while others will recover more easily.
Recent studies have shown that many patients are undergoing unnecessary treatment with no confirmed survival benefit. If we are able to predict which patients have a higher risk of invasive recurrence, then treatment plans can be tailored to each patient. My work may help get us closer to personalized treatment for patients with early-stage breast cancers, avoiding both over-treatment and under-treatment.
My work has previously been featured in the BCSC's researcher blog posts, which can be found here.
4. Why are you passionate about breast cancer research?
When applying for graduate studies and narrowing down which lab I wanted to work in, I knew I wanted to conduct cancer research. Meeting Dr. Chambers, and learning about her work, influenced me to pursue breast cancer research specifically. I really liked her use of various experimental models and the clinical focus of her work.
5. Why do you think breast cancer research matters?
Breast cancer remains the most widely-diagnosed cancer among Canadian women, and too many women are still dying from this disease. This means that researchers have a lot more work to do in order to understand the underlying nature of this disease and develop more effective treatments.
6. What excites you about your work?
I love research with direct clinical translation. My favourite part of my project was the assessment of various proteins for use as a biomarker in multiple breast cancer patient populations. I found that the acquisition of data, along with making connections with clinicopathological and follow-up data extremely exciting. It's very different from cell culture work, as every sample I worked with represents a woman with breast cancer. This aspect is very humbling and reminds researchers why our work is important.
7. What do you see yourself doing in the future?
In the future I would like to work as a Molecular Geneticist, working to identify genes associated with specific diseases and disorders.
8. What do you like to do when you aren't working on research?
When I'm not in the lab or writing manuscripts, I like to indulge in art and music and spend time with my friends, family, and my cat.