It started on a high note and ended on an even higher one. In June, Khan walked across the stage to accept her degree as a University of Calgary Bachelor of Health Sciences graduate. She received an O'Brien Centre Summer Studentships award, landing a research job with Dr. Pinaki Bose, PhD. Then, unexpectedly, she made a discovery that could help cancer patients throughout the world.
Khan spent the summer hunched over a computer interpreting free, publicly accessible health and genomics data. "Bioinformatics is the new frontier of medical science," says Khan. "I started my medical education as a biomedical student, looking at cells through a microscope, but looking at cancer biology with the assistance of a computer opens up a new way of thinking about research."
Khan - Differences - Genes - Cancer - Cells
Khan was comparing the differences between genes found in cancer cells and those found in normal cells. Working under the guidance of Bose, Khan learned how to construct questions and hypotheses. It was a bumpy start.
"We wanted to find out how immune genes in cancer cells might be associated with immunotherapy response. There was nothing there, and we were disappointed," says Bose, who is an adjunct assistant professor in the departments of biochemistry and molecular biology, and oncology, and is a member of the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine.
Focus - Set - Genes - Matrix - Connection
"We adjusted our focus, and discovered that another set of genes, those associated with the extracellular matrix, had a direct connection to how cancer patients respond to immunotherapy."
Immunotherapy has become a popular treatment for some cancers. It uses the body's own immune system to attack and kill cancer cells. The treatment is effective, but only for a select few, around 20 to 30 per cent...
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