Congratulations to Dr. Heather Stuart, Dr. Andrea Neilson, and Dr. Lauren Tindale for being the 2021 recipients of the Carraresi Foundation Research Grants, and Dr. Amy Jamieson for being the 2021 recipient of the Sumiko Kobayashi Marks (SKM) Memorial Research Grant!  

OVCARE launched both one-time grants of up to $20,000 to support gynecological cancer research done by early and mid-career researchers whose proposals may not be eligible for national-level funding. ​These grants are supported through the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation. This funding opportunity was open to all faculty members of OVCARE, including fellows and residents with the support of a faculty member. Funding by the SKM grant had a preference for research focused on cancers of the lower genital tract. [Source:]  

Dr. Heather Stuart – Expanding Uptake for Opportunistic Salpingectomy: Developing an education platform and pilot project for General Surgeons 

Dr. Stuart is a Surgical Oncologist at Vancouver General Hospital and BC Cancer with an interest in cancer prevention. Her multidisciplinary research project has developed a collaboration between General Surgery and Gynaecologic Oncology to offer opportunistic salpingectomy (OS) to women for the prevention of ovarian cancer. 

In BC, salpingectomy, the removal of one or both fallopian tubes, is a strategy used to prevent ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related death in women, and although salpingectomy is a preventative technique, general surgeons have limited training with this procedure. 

With the support of the Carraresi Foundation grant, Dr. Stuart and her research team will work towards expanding the uptake for opportunistic salpingectomy (OS) by developing a module-based education platform for general surgeons. In increasing the uptake for OS, more women would benefit from the procedure, contributing to the overall reduction in incidence of ovarian cancer in BC.  

Dr. Andrea Neilson – Blood and tissue biomarkers can inform prognosis and may add predictive value in selecting women with endometrial cancer appropriate for endocrine therapy and delayed hysterectomy 

Dr. Neilson is a fellow in Gynecologic Oncology training at Vancouver General Hospital, BC Cancer, and the University of British Columbia. She completed her medical school and residency in OB/GYN at the University of Alberta and went on to practice Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women with a cross-appointment as an Assistant Clinical Professor with the University of Alberta. Her early research experience in Biochemistry/Cell Biology fostered a passion for the area of translational research in Gynecologic Oncology. 

As endometrial cancer (EC) is one of the most common gynecological cancers in Canada, Dr. Neilson’s current research is focused on molecular and genetic tools to improve outcomes and tailor treatments for EC patients. Within the landscape of EC, identifying patients with a slower disease course that is able to safely undergo hormonal therapy and delay their surgery is difficult. 

With the Carraresi Foundation funding, Dr. Neilson and her team will work towards developing tools for improving the selection of endometrial cancer patients for non-surgical treatment by identifying if EC outcomes are associated with steroid hormones and estrogen pathway activity. This research will be able to further support other studies that also look at treatment response and cancer-associated outcomes.  

Dr. Lauren Tindale – Exploration and implications for a type-specific response to Bevacizumab treatment in ovarian cancer patients 

Dr. Tindale is a Postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at UBC. Her research focuses on risk modelling and molecular classification to improve early detection and diagnostic accuracy in endometrial and ovarian cancers.

With the support of the Carraresi Foundation research grant, Dr. Tindale and her research team will be analyzing how different ovarian cancer types respond to Bevacizumab treatment. Bevacizumab is an antibody-based drug used to treat recurrent ovarian cancer in addition to chemotherapy. However, findings from studies suggest that this drug is only effective towards certain ovarian cancers. 

Dr. Tindale’s research looks to characterize the different responses to this treatment of ovarian cancer using their recently developed RNA-based molecular classifier: PrOTYPE (Predictor of high-grade-serious Ovarian carcinoma molecular subTYPE). These findings will help characterize which ovarian cancer types are best treated by Bevacizumab and help avoid unnecessary toxicity, ultimately moving towards a more individualized cancer treatment approach to improve patient outcomes.

Dr. Amy Jamieson – Impact of margin status in TP53 mutated vulvar squamous cell carcinoma: is it time to change surgical practice? 

Dr. Jamieson is a recently qualified gynecologic oncologist who is originally from New Zealand. She competed her obstetrics and gynecology training in Christchurch, and her gynecologic oncology fellowship in Sydney and Vancouver. She is currently working as the first Miller-Mindell translational research fellow with the Gynecologic Cancer Initiative and OVCARE. Her current research projects involve in-depth characterization of p53abn endometrial cancer and molecular stratification of vulvar squamous cell carcinoma (VSCC).

Vulvar cancer is often considered the “forgotten women’s cancer”, even though it makes up 5% of gynecologic malignancies. To date, there is no research that investigates the significance of margin status of HPV or gene-mutation (TP53 gene) associated VSCC. Therefore, treatment guidelines recommend removing the same margins in VSCC patients, regardless of the status of HPV or TP53 status. With support of the SKM funding, Dr. Jamieson and her team will investigate this gap in research to help improve the outcomes for vulvar cancer. Furthermore, this research will provide the data to guide treatment for vulvar cancer to be more personalized rather than ‘one size fits all’.