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SickKids

The Garron Family Cancer Centre

Education & Training

Training Programs

Successful candidates complete a two-year cancer research-focused training program. A third year may be considered in exceptional circumstances.

Eligibility

The GFCC Research Fellowship is open to physicians trainees. Eligibility is also extended to nursing and allied health professionals pursuing their Master's or PhD degree.

How to apply

  1. Complete the GFCC Trainee Application 
  2. Submit Current CV 
  3. Submit two professional letters of reference  
  4. Have supervisor complete the GFCC Fellowship Supervisor Application 
  5. Submit one supervisor letter of support

Note: A supervisor and primary project must be identified at the time of application.

Timeline

  • Fellowship Academic Year: July 1, 2023 - June 30, 2024
  • Submission Deadline: September 30, 2022 - 11:59 p.m.
  • Selection Committee Review: October
  • Program Acceptance: An email notification will be forwarded to your email address between October and November.

Fellowship Deferral

The GFCC Research Fellowship can be deferred up to a maximum of 1 year. A written letter advising of deferral is required and include signature from fellow and supervisor.

Fellowship Requirements

Research undertaken must be cancer-related and fellows are required to participate in GFCC research seminars related to their research interests and as their schedules allow from the outset of their fellowship. As part of the fellowship, clinical fellows may be required to commit up to 10% of their time to clinical activities during research training.

Fellowship Expectations

A progress report must be provided by March 31 of the first year research is undertaken and then in the final year of the fellowship.

Acknowledge the Garron Family Cancer Centre in all presentations, invited/submitted poster sessions etc. and use the GFCC logo for such occasions.

Fellows must inform the GFCC in writing of any future applications for funding, publications, new findings or conclusions drawn from the project or the experience that was gained through the GFCC Fellowship opportunity.

Supervisor Contribution

Supervisors are required to provide salary support in the amount of $20,500 per annum. The GFCC will provide balance of funding to support salary up to the required PGY5 salary for clinical fellows. Please note this contribution requirement is subject to change based on PGME salary increases. If fellow receives external funding (e.g. Hold'em For Life, CIHR) the awarded funds will be deducted from the supervisor contribution.

Learn more about the Core Paediatric General Haematology/Oncology fellowship  from the Division of Haematology/Oncology.

Learn more about the Departmental Paediatric Haematology/Oncology fellowship from the Division of Haematology/Oncology.

The Division of Hematology/Oncology Clinical and GFCC Research Fellowship is a four-year combined fellowship opportunity for physicians. The GFCC Research Fellowship component begins after the completion of two years of clinical training.

Eligibility

Physician trainees awarded a two-year clinical fellowship by the Division of Haematology/Oncology.

Application Requirements

  1. Division of Haematology/Oncology Fellowship Application 
  2. Current CV
  3. Two professional letters of reference
  4. GFCC Fellowship Trainee Application
  5. GFCC Fellowship Supervisor Application 
  6. One supervisor letter of support

Timeline

  • Fellowship Academic Year start: July 1, 2023
  • Submission Deadline: September 30, 2022 11:59 p.m.
  • Selection Committee Review: October
  • Program Acceptance: An email notification will be forwarded to your email address between October and November.

Learn more about the Basic Science/Investigator Fellowship offered through the SickKids Research Institute Research Training Centre (RTC).

Current GFCC Research Fellows

Dr. Sarah Cohen-Gogo

Dr. Sarah Cohen-Gogo

Supervisor: Dr. Daniel Morgenstern

PARP Inhibitors and Chemotherapy for children, adolescent and young adults harbouring Tumours with homologous Recombination repair deficiency: a phase II pilot study

While the survival rate in Canada approaches 82 per cent for all child, adolescent, and young adult cancer patients, the prognosis for patients with refractory, relapsed or metastatic disease remains unacceptably poor.
A pan-Canadian collaboration called PRecision Oncology For Young peopLE (PROFYLE) was created to improve survival for the patients with ‘hard-to-treat’ cancers by providing better access to next generation sequencing and targeted therapies. The PROFYLE program expands and integrates the Toronto regional paediatric cancer precision medicine program called KiCS (Kids Cancer Sequencing).

Among the identified genetic aberrations, those leading to deficiencies in a DNA repair pathway called homologous recombination are a promising group for targeted therapy. A family of drugs called PARP inhibitors is now part of the treatment for some adult cancers (ovarian, breast) that have such abnormalities.
As it remains unclear how to best identify paediatric, adolescent and young adult patients who may benefit from these drugs, we are developing a Canadian pilot clinical trial that will provide access to these new drugs for patients with hard-to-treat cancers, and take into account the information from the PROFYLE sequencing study to look for potential biomarkers.

Dr. Grace Egan

Dr. Grace Egan

Supervisor: Dr. Aaron Schimmer

Nuclear Hexokinase 2: Mechanism of Regulating Stemness

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) remains one of the most difficult to treat childhood cancers given its high rates of relapse and treatment-related toxicity.  Leukemic stem cells (LSCs) are thought to be responsible for initiation, maintenance, and recurrence of AML. Understanding the biology of leukemia stem cells is crucial for developing effective, targeted, therapies for AML.

Previous work has shown that enzymes involved in metabolism can influence gene expression when they move from the mitochondria to the nucleus. Little is known about this process in AML. Hexokinase 2 (HK2) is a metabolic enzyme involved in glucose metabolism. Recent work in our lab has demonstrated that leukemia stem cells have increased levels of HK2. When nuclear HK2 is over-expressed in AML cells, it is associated with a stem-like phenotype, making cells resistance to differentiation with chemotherapy. The mechanism of how nuclear HK2 contributes to stemness is unknown. My project will decipher these mechanisms, which appear to involve epigenetic processes and DNA damage repair signaling pathways. By exploring the interacting proteins and pathways of nuclear HK2, it may be possible to discover novel therapeutic ways of selectively reducing the leukemia stem cell population in AML.

Dr. Fyeza Hasan

Dr. Fyeza Hasan

Supervisor: Dr. Lillian Sung

Children with Cancer as Participants in End of Life Research

Survival rates for childhood cancers have increased dramatically, but 20 per cent of patients still die of their cancer or its treatment. The end-of-life (EOL) care of these children is difficult and includes addressing complex symptoms, and challenging issues around decision making, such as decisions about resuscitation, ongoing therapy and clinical trials.
Palliative care research studies can help us to identify evidence informed strategies for managing the complex EOL issues faced by children with cancer and may improve quality of life and satisfaction with care for patients and their families.

Despite the need for this type of research, palliative care studies are extremely rare in paediatric oncology. There are a number of possible barriers including the reluctance of physicians to offer research to families, and reluctance of families to take part, or remain enrolled.

My research aims to explore stakeholder perceptions about the enrolment of children with cancer in paediatric oncology palliative care research. Studying the views of potential research participants will allow researchers to understand parents’ and clinicians’ decision making processes. This will assist them in designing studies that are meaningful and acceptable to stakeholders, improving recruitment and creating knowledge that ultimately improves EOL care.

Dr. Reena Pabari

Dr. Reena Pabari

Supervisor: Cynthia Guidos

The use of high dimensional mass cytometry to detect and characterize relapse-originating cells in acute myeloid leukaemia

Patients with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) have high rates of relapse, despite initial apparent responsiveness to chemotherapy in many cases. There is evidence that the relapsed disease derives from a population of leukemic stem cells that are present at the time of diagnosis. In patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), flow cytometry is used to identify the persistence of leukemic cells (minimal residual disease) after induction chemotherapy in order to guide and intensify treatment if needed.

In contrast, AML is a heterogeneous disease that is difficult to characterize with routine flow cytometry. I will be using high dimensional mass cytometry to characterize and evaluate the relapse-originating cells in diagnosis-remission-relapse samples from patients with AML. Mass cytometry can profile up to 40 markers per cell and has a greater ability to characterize heterogeneous cell populations. Our goal is to be able to identify and monitor the relapse-seeding clones in patients with AML in order to better guide therapy and prevent further progression of disease.

Dr. Hallie Coltin

Supervisor: Dr. Vijay Ramaswamy

Long-Term Functional Outcomes of Children with Medulloblastomas and Ependymomas: A Population-Based, Matched Cohort Study

Medulloblastomas and ependymomas are two common brain cancers in children. These cancers can only be cured with aggressive treatments such as brain surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Unfortunately, these treatments cause serious long-term health problems for the children who survive. These side effects can cause survivors to be hospitalized frequently or die early, but currently we do not know which children are at highest risk, and how to prevent this. The goal of our study is to understand how often survivors develop these long-term side effects. The side effects we are most interested in are: early death, hospitalizations, new cancers, cardiovascular disease, severe mental health problems and dependent living. We will look at all survivors of medulloblastoma and ependymoma who were diagnosed in Ontario between 1985 and 2018 when they were less than 18 years old. Then we will use databases which contain healthcare use in all Ontarians to look at how often and when the survivors develop these side effects. We will compare these findings to a group of healthy Ontarians to see if the survivor group is at higher risk, and which treatments and factors increase the risk of these long-term consequences. This will represent the first population based study to evaluate long-term health outcomes in children treated for medulloblastoma and ependymoma, and provide us with a better understanding how often and why survivors develop these severe complications. Our ultimate goal is to improve the ways that we monitor for these health problems with the goal of preventing them.     

Dr. Razil Sussman

Supervisor: Dr. Walter Kahr

Platelets are small blood cells that play an important role in clot formation to prevent bleeding. This, and other platelet functions, such as aiding wound healing and revascularisation, are facilitated by a large variety of proteins that are stored primarily in platelet α-granules. These proteins are released when platelets encounter wounds and other stimuli. Recent reports present evidence that platelets can play a prominent role in promoting tumor growth and spreading. Before reaching sites where they can form metastases, tumor cells circulate in the bloodstream, where they must survive blood shear forces and evade immune surveillance. Platelets have been observed to coat circulating tumor cells, apparently providing them with a physical shield that protects them from destruction. Platelets have also been shown to be capable of inhibiting immune cell attack. The mechanisms by which platelets protect and assist tumor cells are not well understood, but proteins secreted by platelets have been implicated.We will study the interaction of platelets with tumor and immune cells using a model system that compares normal mice to those where platelets lack α-granules and are thus incapable of secreting most platelet-borne proteins. This system will allow us to identify platelet proteins involved in key intracellular interactions. This information will support development of treatments targeted at preventing the spread of tumor cells, adding new weapons to the ongoing battle against cancer.


Patient and family resources

AboutKidsHealth Educational Resources

AboutKidsHealth is a health education website for children, youth and their caregivers. 

Photovoice Program

As leaders in child health, the oncology social workers at SickKids have implemented a therapeutic Photovoice group where teens meet weekly to record, reflect, and critique issues they have faced on their treatment journey.

Photovoice is a therapeutic photography program focused on creating a supportive peer-focused environment aimed at bringing a voice to teens with varying cancer diagnoses, while facilitating better communication between patients and their healthcare teams. A concurrent Photovoice group for teen siblings is also available. Photos from both groups are displayed at the annual Exhibition to kick off Cancer Awareness Week and are subsequently hung on clinic walls.

[Music]

Veruca: Photo voice is a chance to, well, really give your photos a voice.

[Text on screen: Photovoice – Through the Eyes of Teens with Cancer]

[Music and camera lens shutters]

Bella: A captured image can mean a whole lot more than just one thing

Thea: Well it takes something that you can't really say in words so you can show to other people how you felt using a photo.

Brooke: In pictures you can really see what's happening.

Owen: The photography helped me express my feelings.

Sarah: Why they took that photo kind of like showcases their story in a way.

Noor: Cancer is a really tough experience to go through and sometimes you can't explain it through words.

[Music]

Maryam: So we got to pick these themes and take photos of whatever we thought fit into that theme, or maybe didn't fit into that theme, but we thought related to it, and then present them to the group and just talk. It was a really nice moment just to discuss other parts of what we're going through.

[Music]

Noor: Me and my mom would go on car rides together after I do chemotherapy. It kind of relaxes me and reminds me that I can still live a normal life even though I’m doing chemotherapy and I can still enjoy little things.

Sarah: I think the one that resonated with me the most is Strength and Weaknesses. Everybody like in their cancer journey had strengths and weaknesses. That photo [Referencing a photo of herself lying in bed with a face mask on] I felt the weakest, but everybody around me thought that I was the strongest. We all have this mask that we need to put on especially in front of our family. I don't want to show my family what I’m going through because they're already upset so it's better that I put this mask on and kind of like deal with it my own way or like cope with it in my own way.

Thea: I mean some pictures have a story behind it. [Referencing a photo of herself, without hair, lying in bed without a wig on] Like I didn't get out of bed that day and normally I put on makeup or my wig and that day I just couldn't do it and I felt like this out of body experience and I just didn't recognize me at all. I was like small and sick you know. A couple months later when I had hair and I was more me and I realized like the parallels of that as I was getting up and I’m like this is perfect so I took a picture. [Referencing a photo of herself with short hair, lying in bed smiling] Life after cancer is like living with the knowledge of knowing how a body can decay so that's how I felt in the first picture and then the second one I sort of came out from that.

Veruca: One of the themes that really resonated with me was Personality. You always know your personality, you know who you are. It's the one thing that no one can take from you. That something as crazy as cancer couldn't take from you. I enjoy listening to music and that helped me through treatment because it was just like a way to like escape. [Referencing a photo of a pair of earphones, held up infront of a hospital room curtain] You don't always have to pay attention to what's going on around you, whether you're in a hospital setting or not. Well I’m definitely grateful for the group. When I look back at some of the photos that I’ve taken I can see how far I’ve come.

Bella: You don't just learn about people's cancer diagnosis or the stuff that they've gone through, you understand like a part of their personality. We all had a different point of view, but we all went through the same thing. We lost our hair, we went through chemotherapy, we were constantly being poked. Well it represents coping to me because for me a big struggle through my whole cancer diagnosis was losing my hair. Well I feel like if you feel good and you feel confident in yourself it's a lot easier and when you feel good you look good and I feel like that just feeling comfortable myself with my wig on was really me coping.

Owen: The themes helped us narrow down what we wanted to do. "A New Normal" that that helped us explain of what we were and what we’re becoming, or what we're going to be. I was out late one night, I think it was around like midnight or whatever with my friends and we were out doing stupid stuff. I thought I was invincible. I just got into grade nine, I was sent down here and I had a highly aggressive stage four glioblastoma. My first stage of chemo didn't work but my second battle is working really well.

I wasn't such a nice person before being in the hospital. I was sad, I was depressed. And right now the new normal is I want to help as many people as I can. I talk to everybody, I’m absolutely radiant person, I love life. I don't care that I’m on a chemo drug or anything. I look past that. You have to, to survive. And it's a new normal.

Maryam: So the theme of strength and weaknesses resonated for me specifically, in that throughout what you go through, a cancer journey treatment and all the parts of it, I feel like a lot of people when they picture it can only think of the sadness or the weaknesses in a way. But there are a lot of strengths. And you come out of it and you gain a lot. You gain strength and you gain a new look on life. I think that I’m strong because of what I’ve gone through. So that photo [Referencing a photo of various colourful polaroid images and flowers on a table] I used polaroids of a trip I took with classmates to Nepal. It was a time in my life when I felt physically strong, out of treatment and in those photos or snapshots with me and my friends, and these beautiful moments on this trip, and it's moments that give me strength and motivation because these beautiful moments in life really exist. And it gave me strength to think back like, this can happen again. That this moment of beauty and this happiness that I experienced during that trip, it can happen again.

Brooke: Well I think how you make a photo special is if it really means something to you. That picture [Referencing a photo of herself sitting on a bench, reading by the water] describes coping because whenever i wanted to cope or something to do just get my mind off cancer, I would read my bible and that would help me cope and just sit by the lake and it was just a good coping strategy for me. Sharing this photo was empowering because I got to see how people react and that photos really do explain who you are as a person. I usually don't like opening up, especially not about personal things such as my cancer journey, so when I was doing Photovoice it really gave me the opportunity to share my experience. And it's just good to get it off your chest because it's a part of you and you can't leave it behind.

Noor: Cancer shouldn't be kept a secret it's something to show what I’ve done what I’m going through.

Thea: It made me feel like I could finally get things off my chest to a group of people who understood.

Veruca: Having that environment where we could interact and share pieces of our lives through photos really helped me feel like I wasn't alone in what I was going through.

Bella: After all this like whole experience I think I definitely look at photos a different way.

Owen: When I think of photography I think of myself as a whole and everything that's happened to me.

Maryam: It’s uplifting to think about Photovoice. It's a support group tied up with the ability to express your creativity.

Sarah: It's pretty healing.

[Music and camera lens shutters]

[Text on screen: Photovoice – Through the Eyes of Teens with Cancer]

'It's All About Me' Sibling Appreciation Day

A child’s diagnosis of cancer or serious blood disorder has a significant impact on the entire family. Siblings of children with cancer/serious blood disorders are often overlooked and their needs minimized as their parents and healthcare professionals focus on the ill child. The Annual “It’s All About Me” Sibling Appreciation Day provides creative opportunities to address the most common concerns about the sibling experience.  

It promotes the expression of feelings, coping, and problem solving with the goal of enhancing self-esteem. Throughout our programming, we aim to enhance sibling’s adjustment to living with a life-threatening illness within the family, reinforce their importance within the family, and provide much needed recognition for their important role in their family’s journey at SickKids.  

For more information about these initiaitves, email sonia.lucchetta@sickkids.ca or wendy.shama@sickkids.ca

Contact the GFCC

Contact the GFCC

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