Johal Chair in Childhood Cancer Research
Professor, Department of Pathology, University of British Columbia
Distinguished Scientist, BC Cancer Research Centre
Senior Research Scientist (Honorary), Vancouver Prostate Centre
Dr. Poul Sorensen is a molecular pathologist and cancer biologist specializing in the genetics and biology of pediatric cancers. Dr. Sorensen holds the Johal Endowed Chair in Childhood Cancer Research at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and is Professor of Pathology at UBC. Dr. Sorensen is a founding member of the AACR Pediatric Cancer Working Group. He is a principal investigator on the recently awarded Stand Up 2 Cancer Pediatric Cancer Dream Team grant focused on immunotherapeutic approaches to targeting high-risk childhood cancers. His group runs several major components of this prestigious award, including the Pathology Core.
Dr. Sorensen’s laboratory, located at the BC Cancer Research Centre, focuses on using both genetic approaches (such as next-generation sequencing) and biochemical methods (e.g. proteomics) to identify deregulated signaling cascades in childhood cancer cells. His group has discovered many novel translocation associated alterations in childhood cancer (e.g. Knezevich et al, Nat Genet, 1998, Tognon et al, Cancer Cell, 2002). Moreover, the group has extensive renown in utilizing genetic findings as a means to characterize relevant cancer biology (e.g. Evdokimova et al, Cancer Cell, 2009, Mendoza-Naranjo et al, EMBO Mol Med, 2013, Leprivier et al, Cell, 2013, Daugaard et al, Nat Comm, 2013, Somasekharan et al, J Cell Biol, 2015, and El-Naggar et al, Cancer Cell, 2015).
Current work is focused on how cancer cells respond to acute stress. The overarching hypothesis is that adaptation to such stresses through altered mRNA translation and protein synthesis leads to tumour cell clonal selection and metastasis. The group therefore utilizes a variety of proteomic and other techniques to probe the “translatome” of stressed tumour cells to identify new targets for therapy in aggressive human solid tumours.
psor [at] interchange [dot] ubc [dot] ca
- Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (FRCPC) – Anatomical Pathology. 1991
- PhD, University of British Columbia, Canada. 1990
- MD, University of British Columbia, Canada. 1984
- BSc (Honours Chemistry /Biochemistry), McGill University, Montreal, Canada. 1980
- The overall premise of my research is that a greater understanding of how childhood cancer cells respond to extra- or intracellular signals is necessary to identify tumour-specific pathways. Only then can these pathways be targeted therapeutically in a manner that minimizes effects on normal cells. This is especially important in childhood cancer to avoid toxic effects of treatments on the intellectual, physical, and emotional development of a growing child. An ongoing difficulty with this approach is how to find the relevant pathways to target. Over the years we have chosen to characterize recurrent genetic alterations in childhood tumours as a means to more efficiently identify novel cancer genes. This is part of our belief that analysis of primary tumours is preferable for initial identification of pathophysiologically relevant alterations in human malignancies. With the advent of next-generation sequencing, we are now extending this approach to whole genome sequencing of childhood cancers to better understand the mutational landscape of these tumours. Then, once the involved proteins have been identified, model systems can be invoked to further study their biology and how the pathways they are involved in become activated. We then use various biochemical approaches as well as high-throughput platforms such as RNA interference screening to rigorously characterize the involved proteins, their functional interactors, and the signal transduction pathways they participate in. This forms the basis for subsequent strategies to therapeutically target candidate proteins in childhood cancers.