New cancer equipment added to Windsor-area research inventory

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

OurWindsor.ca/Tom Morrison

The Windsor Cancer Research Group has added a new piece of equipment to its ongoing inventory of labs and research initiatives in the region.

The group has started Nucleus: Core Labs Enabling Solutions, which is meant to identify all of the relevant research equipment and projects in the region and determine new equipment needed to move local cancer research forward.

A new piece of equipment, purchased with a $20,000 donation from Caesars Windsor, can inject human cancer cells into zebrafish and treat them with different chemotherapy drugs.

Rosa-Maria Ferraiuolo, a research associate in the University of Windsor’s department of biology, said the equipment will help “individualize” care for each patient.

“What’s great about this new equipment is that it’s very, very accurate,” she said. “We can inject at the same spot for every single fish, letting us compare one patient to another patient or even one patient to its normal cells that we can do as a comparison with the different chemotherapy treatments.”

Lisa Porter, the translational research director for WCRG, said the ultimate goal is to work with clinicians so they can personalize care for their patients.

“Can we take an individual patient’s tumour and say, ‘These are the five drugs that we have available for this kind of breast cancer. Which one works best for that patient?’” she said.

Porter said there’s “only a handful” of the same piece of equipment in Canada. She said it lets them conduct different tests on hundreds of zebrafish.

Because the zebrafish are so small, a minimal human tissue sample is needed, which benefits patients who may have a tumour only a few centimetres in size, said Porter.

The larger Nucleus project will help identify other needs in the local research community, which includes partners at research facilities in Michigan, said Porter, an associate biology professor at UWindsor.

“I wouldn’t have known what we needed for drug therapy, for making new drugs, because I’m not a chemist,” she said. “By doing this list, I figured out that there are some big pieces of equipment that we need if we want to get certain drugs made here in Windsor.”

Porter said the list is a work in progress, but it’s a good resource for patients and students to see what’s available in the area.

“There are things we’re doing in Windsor that other places aren’t doing at all,” she said.

“It’s also for us as a research community because, as a researcher, if I want to know who can I go to get this drug made … I know now because there are researchers listed that are doing certain things.”

It will take at least a year to fill all the holes and “get our current inventory where we want it,” said Porter.

“One of the really great things is science in Windsor is growing,” she said. “We just got a lot of new faculty members here and with new faculty, they bring new equipment and new expertise. With every new hire, that also adds to what we’re doing.”