Catherine Adell O'Brien, MD, PhD, FRCSC

The focus of my research program is to develop a better understanding of the molecular pathways underlying the initiation and maintenance of colorectal cancers (CRCs). It is well established that cells within any given tumour display both functional and phenotypic heterogeneity. Experimental work over the past 50 years has also shown that not all cancer cells are created equal with respect to their ability to drive tumour growth; however, the biological basis for this observation remains to be fully elucidated. Our interest is to identify the molecular pathways responsible for driving tumour growth in the subset of CRC cells enriched for tumour-initiating capacity, also referred to as colorectal cancer-initiating cells (CC-ICs). Through identifying and characterizing the relevant molecular pathways, we will also begin to understand the factors capable of modulating these survival pathways. One method we are using to better understand the survival mechanisms used by CC-ICs is through studying the molecular pathways they utilize to evade current chemotherapeutic strategies. By using functional genomic strategies to study CC-ICs in the context of current chemotherapeutic agents, we are developing a better appreciation for the molecular pathways that CC-ICs upregulate when they are exposed to standard-of-care chemotherapeutic agents.

For a list of Dr. O'Brien's publications, please visit PubMed or Scopus.

Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto
Cross-appointed Faculty Member, Department of Physiology, University of Toronto
General Surgeon, University Health Network - Speciality: surgical oncology, gastrointestinal malignancies
Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Translational Research in Colorectal Cancer