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Saunders Matthey Cancer Prevention Foundation: A critical resource to advance cancer research

Posted by Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute on August 30, 2023 in News

Recently, two board members from Saunders Matthey Cancer Prevention Foundation had an opportunity to meet with graduate students in Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute’s Cancer Research Training Program.

Saunders Matthey-funded CRTP trainees Chiara GottheilStephanie Kendall and Brendan McKeown were on hand to talk about their research projects with Saunders Matthey board members Paulette Skerrett and Marina Skerrett.

Mary (Marina’s sister) was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990. It was Mary’s wish that funds from her estate support cancer research, education, and prevention. “My sister was a school teacher and education was very important to her.” says Marina.

Saunders-Matthey Cancer Prevention Foundation was founded in 1996 through a trust left by Mary Saunders-Matthey prior to her tragic death from breast cancer.  Mary had a fervent desire to contribute to finding the cause, cure and treatment for breast cancer.  To help this objective, she bequeathed her resources to the fight against breast cancer and formulated an idea with her husband Ray Matthey and her sister Marina Skerrett to establish a fund to support breast cancer research. Ray Matthey lost his daughter Jeannette, a gifted CBC correspondent to breast cancer prior to his wife’s death.

A donation for hope

The Foundation has been supporting cancer research in the Maritimes through the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute since 2010 when the Institute was established. For Saunders Matthey funds, priority is given first to cancer prevention or breast cancer research projects. Both Brendan and Stephanie’s projects focus on breast cancer, but from very different approaches. “Funding provided by the Saunders Matthey Foundation has been integral for our research on new treatments for triple negative breast cancers, an aggressive form of breast cancer with few effective treatments.”, explains Dr. Kerry Goralski, a professor in the School of Pharmacy and Brendan’s supervisor. “Our research focuses on natural product molecules called jadomycins, which are produced by soil bacteria.” 

Recent research in the Goralski lab identified that jadomycins kill multiple human breast cancer subtypes (including those that are resistant to currently approved chemotherapies). Using a mouse model of triple negative breast cancer that closely resembles human breast cancer, they have shown that jadomycin B inhibits breast tumour growth as well as the spread of cancer to the lung. More importantly, they have discovered how jadomycins work to inhibit tumour growth, a finding that can lead to new and powerful treatments for these aggressive breast cancers.

Instead of working at a bench, Stephanie worked closely with cancer patients, looking at whether exercise and lifestyle changes can help breast cancer patients from developing heart damage because of their cancer treatment. Dr. Scott Grandy, an associate professor in the School of Health and Human Performance and Stephanie’s supervisor explains, “Although treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation significantly improve cancer outcomes for breast cancer patients, they can have a very negative effect on the heart, increasing the risk of heart disease during survivorship.” “As a result, heart disease is a leading cause of death in those with breast cancer.” Previous research in Dr. Grandy’s lab, which was also supported by Saunders Matthey, showed that exercise is beneficial for those affected by breast cancer. Based on this previous work, Stephanie conducted clinical research where she worked with breast cancer patients to determine whether regular exercise can prevent chemotherapy-related heart damage from occurring in the breast. Stephanie’s work has shown that those with breast cancer can maintain a regular exercise program through treatment, however there is still much to do.

Supporting the next generation

The Cancer Research Training Program (CRTP) provides graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and medical residents in Atlantic Canada with an opportunity to pursue their passion to conduct meaningful cancer research and improve the lives of cancer patients and those at risk of developing cancer. The training program is designed to build professional skills and enhance career development regardless of the stage of training or research discipline.  

For trainees, CRTP also builds an appreciation and awareness of other cancer disciplines and research approaches. Chiara states, “It was great to hear about the work that Steph and Brendan have been doing.” She continues, “I would not have known about these other approaches if I wasn’t in CRTP.”  The program provides opportunities and resources for networking, collaboration, and access to perspectives of patients, the public and health-care providers.

The power of donations

To date, Saunders Matthey has provided almost $300,000 to support trainees enrolled in BHCRI’s Cancer Research Training Program. This support means everything to trainees. “I am very grateful to Paulette, Marina and Saunders Matthey for their support,” says Chiara.

The partnership between Saunders Matthey and BHCRI is a powerful one, together helping to find the cause, cure and treatment for breast and other cancers. As a result of this investment by Saunders Matthey, the next generation of cancer researchers are ideally prepared to generate essential new knowledge in the fight against cancer. The Saunders Matthey Foundation donations are currently directed to the cancer research training program within BHCRI and in so doing are developing the careers of future health professionals.

Join Saunders Matthey in the goal of preventing and treating cancer