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Zooming in on Zhangfei’s cancer impact

Caitlin Wright

Caitlin Wright. Photo: Robyn Thrasher.

After 16-year-old Caitlin Wright participated in a Heart and Stroke Foundation scholarship program, she fully expected to study human medicine in university.

But as she grew older, Wright’s love of animals caused her to change her mind and choose veterinary medicine instead. “I felt it was a career that combined my ability to work with animals, my desire to help people and my fascination with medicine,” says Wright, a third-year veterinary student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

While living in Sooke, B.C., Wright developed a keen interest in research and has been involved in several studies over the years. “I studied the genetic basis of heart disease at the University of British Columbia and I’ve also participated in research projects through the Royal BC Museum, the Pacific Forestry Centre and the University of Victoria.”

Since receiving her BSc in molecular biology, Wright has become fascinated with oncology research. This summer, she’s working with WCVM professor Dr. Vikram Misra to study a tumour-suppressing protein called Zhangfei.

Misra’s lab has discovered that when Zhangfei is expressed in canine osteosarcoma cells, it stops tumour cell growth and causes tumour cell death without damaging normal healthy cells.

“My study involves expressing Zhangfei in various other types of dog cancer, as well as some human cancers, to see if it has the same effect,” explains Wright, who hopes her results will lead to a potential breakthrough for treating cancer patients in the future.

Excited about the impact her data may have within the fields of veterinary and human medicine, Wright is looking forward to presenting her research at the Merial Veterinary Scholars Symposium in August. Veterinary students from across Canada and the United States will present their research findings and share experiences during the annual symposium that will be hosted by the University of Florida this year.

Besides her passion for research and veterinary medicine, Wright also loves to dance. “I’ve been dancing ballet for 12 years and I also enjoy swing and salsa,” she says. “And since moving to Saskatchewan, I’ve also learned how to two-step!”

After graduation, Wright plans to pursue a career in a small or mixed animal practice and she’d like to do a residency so she can combine her love for clinical practice with research. “I enjoy the collaborative aspects of research – talking to other people, finding out what they’re studying, generating new ideas together,” she says. “Research is a great way to get involved with the WCVM during your summer break and it’s incredibly satisfying to see the results of your work.”

Robyn Thrasher of Edmonton, Alta., is a second-year veterinary student at the WCVM. Robyn is producing stories about the veterinary college’s clinical services, research program and its researchers as part of her summer job in research communications.


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