Genome instability is associated with virtually all cancer types, but the underlying gene defects and mutations causing genome instability are not well understood. Mutations that cause chromosome instability (CIN), or abnormal chromosome numbers, are now widely recognized as predisposing factors that drive cancer formation. In fact, mutations in CIN genes are associated with disease progression, the acquisition of drug resistance and poor patient survival. Nevertheless, and despite these associations, the mutated genes giving rise to CIN remain largely unknown. Thus, a fundamental goal of our research team is to identify and characterize new CIN genes, and to uncover their roles in cancer development. To achieve this goal, we routinely couple genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology and high-content imaging microscopy to identify the mutated genes and abnormal pathways that drive colorectal and ovarian cancer formation.
The second major goal of our research team is to identify and develop novel therapeutic strategies to combat cancers, like colorectal, ovarian and breast. In this regard, we use genetics, cell biology and innovative microscopy approaches to screen and identify new drug targets and lead chemotherapeutics that specifically kill cancer cells with mutated CIN genes. A major benefit of this approach is that the therapeutic effects are better targeted towards cancer cells, and thus it is predicted to minimize and/or eliminate the adverse side effects associated with many current chemotherapeutics. This innovative cancer-specific targeting concept is referred to as synthetic lethality and is now beginning to show promise within the clinic.
Dr. Harminder Singh is a clinician scientist, epidemiologist and practicing gastroenterologist. Dr. Singh received his MBBS and MD from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, internal medicine training at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York and Masters in Public Health from the University of Manitoba. He received training in gastroenterology, gastrointestinal oncology and health outcomes research at University of Manitoba.
Dr. Singh is currently an Associate Professor of Medicine in the departments of Internal Medicine and Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. He is a former member of the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, an organization developing and disseminating clinical practice guidelines for primary care, including for screening for cancers. He is co-leading the Manitoba Hereditary GI Cancer Clinic.
Dr. Singh’s research interests include prevention and screening for cancers, clinical epidemiology, pharmaco-epidemiology and health services research. He is currently leading a large knowledge translation study to improve processes around colonoscopy, an essential test to diagnosis colorectal cancer.
Dr. Neil Watkins is Director of the Research Institute at CancerCare Manitoba (CCMB), CCMB’s Chief of Research, and Professor of Internal Medicine in the University of Manitoba’s Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. Before joining the Research Institute in 2019, Dr. Watkins was the Petre Chair in Cancer Biology at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia. Prior to that he was Professor of Cancer Biology at Monash University and Director of the Centre for Cancer Research at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research, both in Melbourne, Australia, and Assistant Professor of Oncology at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
Dr. Watkins is a physician-scientist with major accomplishments in basic and clinical research. His basic research interests encompass tumour biology, epigenetics, and developmental biology. He is particularly interested in understanding how aberrant activation of embryonic signaling pathways can be therapeutically targeted in lung, colorectal and breast cancer. Clinically, he is recognized for the development of new treatments for lung cancer and aggressive pediatric brain cancers.
Dr. Watkins has published over 110 peer-reviewed papers in his career including highly cited papers in Science, Nature, Genes & Development, Nature Genetics, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and Cancer Research. His career publications have been cited more than 10,000 times, including over 500 citations in each year since 2007.