Jennifer Kwan, MD, PhD, FRCPC

Dr. Jennifer Kwan is a Staff Radiation Oncologist - Clinician Scientist at the University Health Network (UHN) - Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology, and an Assistant Professor and Associate Member in the Institute of Medical Science in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto.

She graduated from Queen's University with her M.D., followed by residency at the University of Toronto during which time she held the role of Chief Resident of Radiation Oncology. During her residency training, she completed a Ph.D. under the supervision of Dr. Fei-Fei Liu in the Clinician Investigator Program (CIP), an accredited postgraduate program of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.  

During her Ph.D., she received the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship granted by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and participated in the Strategic Training in Transdisciplinary Radiation Science for the 21st Century (STARS21) program, an innovative research training program in Radiation Medicine Research established in 2003 with support from the CIHR.

Dr. Kwan is a Breast Radiation Oncologist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. She is also one of the lead physicians for the Adult Radiation Late Effects Clinic (ARLEC), a specialized clinic at the Princess Margaret where she cares for patients who experience long-term and late side effects from radiotherapy. Her clinical work complements her role as a Principal Investigator of her research lab program at the Princess Margaret Cancer Research Tower, where she studies novel biomarkers and therapeutics for management of side effects from cancer treatments such as radiotherapy, surgery, and systemic therapies. As a Clinician Scientist, Dr. Kwan aims to lead innovative research and translate science from the lab to the clinic to benefit cancer patients. She has received multiple international awards including from the American Society for Radiation Oncology, the European Radiation Research Society, and the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer.

As a grateful recipient of mentorship and education from those who have trained her, Dr. Kwan supports the education and career development of graduate students, medical students, resident physicians, fellows, and other students and trainees at the University of Toronto. She has co-authored a book chapter on career development in academic radiation oncology and has led several mentorship and career exploration programs for high school, undergraduate students, and medical trainees.

With improved outcomes and greater longevity of patients after cancer treatment, side effects of cancer treatment have been a growing concern for many patients and healthcare providers. The aim of Dr. Kwan’s research program is to improve the outcomes of cancer patients by understanding the mechanisms of cancer treatment-related toxicity on normal tissues and identifying novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets to manage and mitigate side effects.

Managing side effects with novel therapeutics: One in eight women are affected by breast cancer. Though breast cancer treatment is effective, it can cause long-term side effects, including lymphedema. Understanding the natural course of side effects like breast cancer-related lymphedema and the pathologies that occur during their development and progression can provide opportunities for targeted therapeutic approaches that avoid, prevent, or treat challenging pathologies. Using RNA sequencing, our research has demonstrated that downregulation of metabolic signaling pathways, such as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor signaling, in lymphedema-affected tissues promote myofibroblast activation, fibroblast proliferation, and fibrotic protein secretion leading to scar tissue deposition. We are working on therapeutic targeting of aberrant metabolic signaling pathways to mitigate fibrosis, a critical pathology in lymphedema that lacks effective treatment options.

Preventing the morbidity of side effects through early risk stratification: With improved effectiveness of cancer treatment, patients are living longer and developing long-term side effects of cancer treatment. Currently, pre-treatment counseling on cancer treatment-related side effects is based upon average risk estimates from population-level studies. We are developing methods for personalized patient-level risk stratification using novel clinical and radiomic parameters to direct early risk modification and intervention, including de-escalation of cancer treatment, to avoid or reduce toxicity.

Supportive care needs of cancer survivors: From the patient’s perspective, measuring validated patient-reported outcomes is of utmost importance and a preferred approach to ensure research is patient-centered and will have benefit that is directly meaningful to the lives of patients. We investigate patient-reported needs and preferences to guide research and clinical practice in cancer follow-up and survivorship care.

For a list of Dr. Kwan's publications, please visit PubMed, Scopus, or ORCID.

Staff Radiation Oncologist, Radiation Medicine Program, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
Assistant Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Toronto
Assistant Professor, Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto
Associate Member, Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto