Academic Rank:
Professor, Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
Distinguished Scientist
Johal Chair in Childhood Cancer Research
Affiliation(s):
Short Bio:

Dr. Poul Sorensen is a board certified anatomic pathologist, specializing in the molecular pathology of pediatric cancers. He undertook his undergraduate, medical, and PhD degrees at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and McGill University, Montreal. He completed postdoctoral training at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, University of Southern California, after his Pathology training.  He then returned to Vancouver to start his own laboratory at Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Vancouver. Dr. Sorensen holds the Asa and Kashmir Johal Endowed Chair in Childhood Cancer Research, and he is Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UBC. Dr. Sorensen’s research laboratory is located in the Department of Molecular Oncology at the BC Cancer Research Centre, where he is a distinguished scientist. His research focuses on targeting aberrant signaling pathways that are activated in childhood cancers and breast carcinoma.

Dr. Sorensen’s laboratory uses a combination of genetic and biochemical approaches to identify proteins that are specifically altered in human tumours. His laboratory has discovered many novel genetic alterations in childhood cancer and breast tumours, and these discoveries have been translated into new diagnostic tests for specific tumours, and have advanced our understanding of how the involved proteins transmit signals that cause cells to become cancerous. Such information then allows for the rapid implementation of strategies to target these proteins therapeutically. Dr. Sorensen is also the Chair of the Translational Research Committee of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), the largest pediatric oncology clinical trials network in the world.

Affiliations

University of British Columbia, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
University of British Columbia, Pediatrics Department
University of British Columbia, Department of Urologic Sciences

Credentials<

Senior Research Scientist (Honorary), Vancouver Prostate Cancer
Professor, University of British Columbia
Asa and Kashmir Johal Endowed Chair in Childhood Cancer Research, University of British Columbia, Department of Pediatrics

Publications (link to Pubmed)

BC Cancer Foundation blog

psor [at] interchange [dot] ubc [dot] ca

Read news about the Sorensen Lab here.

Academic background

  • 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
Primary Research Area
Cancer
Secondary Research Area
Molecular Pathology & Cell Biology

Research Interest

  • 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.

Current projects in my lab include:

Discovery and Development of Optimal Immunotherapeutic Strategies for Childhood Cancers

High-risk pediatric cancers remain the leading cause of mortality in childhood, and current standard approaches to treat pediatric cancers frequently induce unacceptable life-long morbidity. This multi-center collaborative effort focuses on identifying and understanding the fundamental mechanisms leading to high-risk childhood cancers, including how these malignancies evolve to evade the immune system and resist modern therapies. These discoveries will subsequently be translated into novel new immunotherapeutic strategies for children, adolescents and young adults with cancer, which are predicted to improve cure rates while diminishing the long-term toxicity experienced by survivors.

Immunogenomics to Create New Therapies for High-Risk Childhood Cancers

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation – SU2C Pediatric Cancer Dream Team is a collaboration between pediatric cancer researchers in the largely disparate disciplines of cancer genomics and immunotherapeutics. The team will focus on developing new, targeted immunotherapeutics for the most difficult-to-cure childhood cancers.

New classes of therapeutics are needed to improve survival of children with cancer and decrease the physical, emotional, and financial life-altering costs of curative therapies. The Team has used new technologies in the field of cancer genomics, epigenetics and proteomics to discover and validate new targets for immunotherapy. They have built new antibodies, antibody-drug conjugates and CAR T cells to attack these targets. The team has innovated in developing new immunotherapies, discovering basic mechanisms of effectiveness (or lack thereof) in both antibody and cellular engineering, and developed novel methods to monitor clinical effectiveness and toxicity. The team has opened 25 clinical trials and have treated 688 pediatric patients with cancers that have resisted treatment. They demonstrated the potency of immunotherapy against acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), as well as defined mechanisms for how these cancers cells develop resistance. They have also made progress against childhood solid cancers, with many emerging therapeutics just entering the clinics, or scheduled to enter testing over the next one to three years.