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New Canada Research Chair awarded to WCRI scientist

November 20, 2017

Joanne Kotsopoulos, PhD
Joanne Kotsopoulos, PhD

Joanne Kotsopoulos, PhD, has received a Canada Research Chair in Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Prevention.

Kotsopoulos is a scientist at Women’s College Research Institute and an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Her research is dedicated to furthering our understanding of cancers that are associated with mutations in the BRCA genes.

Women who inherit a mutation in one of the two breast cancer susceptibility genes – BRCA1 or BRCA2 – have a high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Genetic testing allows for the identification of these high-risk women; however, there are currently no effective, non-surgical prevention strategies available.

Kotsopoulos conducts large-scale studies that offer powerful insights into the risk factors and characteristics of hereditary cancers. As part of an ongoing international, collaborative research effort that created the largest database of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers, she is able to access data and biological specimens from over 15,000 women from 20 different countries for her research.

For example, Kotsopoulos has provided important evidence showing how and why different factors such as hormones and reproductive factors can affect BRCA-related cancer development. She is using biomarkers – such as sex hormones, mammographic density, circulating tumour DNA and gene expression – that can better identify women at the highest risk of developing cancer. Further, her work will assess these biomarkers as potential targets for novel preventive drug therapies or as markers for early detection. Kotsopoulos also researches the genetic and non-genetic factors affecting BRCA-negative women at high risk for breast cancer.

Ultimately, through her work to further our understanding of hereditary cancers at a fundamental level, Kotsopoulos is helping deliver evidence-based, personalized strategies to improve women’s health and lower cancer incidence and mortality rates around the world.

The Canada Research Chairs Program provides support to attract and retain top-calibre scientists. Kotsopoulos’ chair will support her research for a term of five years, and it is renewable once.


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