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McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Newsmagazine — Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2012

Research technician Nicole McFarlane speaks to Lana Cook, Julie Pigeon-Séguin, Michel Séguin, Molly Hayes, John Rennison and Moses Cook as they tour the lab at the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute.

Cancer patients follow their doctor into her lab

Sheila Singh
Sheila Singh

Diagnosed two years ago with a brain tumour, Moses Cook was inspired at seeing the scientific work of his surgeon, Sheila Singh, when he got behind-the-scenes at McMaster University's Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute.

"It's incredible what they are doing in the lab," said the 16-year-old, who has undergone two surgeries and radiation treatment. "It's science fiction."

The tour of the research labs was organized in July for about 20 parents and children of the b.r.a.i.n.child support group of the McMaster Children's Hospital. The group is for families caring for a child with a brain tumour.

Singh is an associate professor of surgery, a principal investigator at the Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute and a pediatric neurosurgeon for McMaster Children's Hospital. She led the tour with her lab team.

Cook, who has wanted to be a neurosurgeon since he was 10 years old, had donated tissue samples from his tumour to be studied by Singh's lab.

Her research is unique in that she uses actual human brain tumour stem cells rather than mouse models or cell lines grown in culture. The lab's work is driven by patient samples.

"We know at the end of the day there's accountability to the public and to patients and we want to deliver," Singh said. "We want to find a cure, a treatment."

In anticipation that Singh's work will inspire other female researchers, she has been invited to be the keynote speaker at the annual University of Toronto Clinician Investigator Program symposium in November.