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The Canadian Cancer Society awards a grant to Geneviève Deblois

Published on February 1, 2024

Geneviève Deblois, Director of IRIC’s Metabolic and Epigenetic Alterations in Cancer Research Unit, is the recipient of a Emerging Scholar Research Grant from the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS). Sixteen of these grants were awarded across the country in the 2023 competition to advance cancer research programs. Geneviève Deblois, the only researcher to be funded in Quebec, has been awarded $550,000 for her project “Finding better ways to treat triple-negative breast cancer”.

Professor Deblois agreed to answer a few questions about this grant:


How did you come to study triple-negative breast cancer?

Geneviève Deblois (G. D.) : I have worked with all breast cancer subtypes throughout my research career. In recent years, however, I have focused my efforts on triple-negative breast cancer because of its aggressive and heterogeneous tumor characteristics, which create considerable challenges in its treatment and lead to a poor prognosis. Indeed, despite an initial positive response to chemotherapy, these cancers present high recurrence rates associated with resistance to chemotherapeutic treatments.


Where does this resistance to chemotherapy come from? Is it possible to counter it?

G. D. : Cells that are able to survive chemotherapy treatments display important epigenetic reprogramming and metabolic changes that help them to survive and proliferate despite exposure to treatment. Research in my laboratory aims to understand the mechanisms of metabolic and epigenetic adaptations in breast cancer cells during tumor progression and in the context of chemoresistance. Our work aims to identify and characterize this reprograming in order to prevent the emergence of chemotherapy resistance.


What are the objectives of the funded project?

G. D.: Our project aims to better understand how triple-negative breast cancer cells develop resistance. We have identified a novel molecular mechanism that may promote the adaptation and survival of triple-negative breast cancer cells when exposed to stresses in the tumor microenvironment, including those caused by chemotherapy treatments. More specifically, we aim to understand the epigenetic and metabolic reprogramming mediated by this mechanism that could enable this adaptability. Our project could potentially have implications for other types of cancer or therapies.


What does obtaining this grant mean in concrete terms for you and your team?

G. D.: This CCS Emerging Scholar Research Grant represents an essential lever for the full development and sustainability of this line of research in my laboratory. This financial support will enable us to deepen our studies of epigenetic regulation in response to metabolic stress in triple-negative breast cancers, and to explore in detail key aspects of cancer cell adaptation mechanisms that remain poorly understood to date.


Congratulations to the whole team on obtaining this funding!