Nutritional Sciences

Julie MasonStudent’s Name: Julie Mason
Supervisor: Dr. Lilian U. Thompson, Dr. Emeritus
PhD Thesis: Interactive Effects of Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil and Trastuzumab on the Growth of Breast Tumors Overexpressing HER2

Many women make dietary changes when diagnosed with breast cancer and flaxseed is a commonly used dietary supplement by this patient population. Julie’s PhD research looked at whether flaxseed, flaxseed oil and the omega-3 fatty acid found in these foods are effective complementary treatments with the drug trastuzumab (HerceptinTM) for an aggressive subtype of breast cancer that overexpresses a protein called HER2. Using animal and cell culture models, Julie showed that when trastuzumab treatment was combined with flaxseed oil or its key fatty acid α-linolenic acid (ALA) there was a significant benefit in tumor/cell growth reduction compared to trastuzumab alone. This effect was shown to be due in part to regulation of cell signaling pathways activated by HER2 and the modulation of cell proliferation and apoptosis.

Julie’s PhD was supported by the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship and Peterborough KM Hunter Studentship. During her PhD Julie was a recipient of several awards including the New Investigator Award from the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids, the Nutritional Sciences Alumni Graduate Travel Award, the CIHR Institute for Cancer Research Travel Award and the Lillian Thompson Student Seminar Award. She has authored seven peer-reviewed papers and three book chapters.   

Julie plans to build on the basic science training in her PhD in the field of diet and cancer research and is currently seeking postdoctoral training opportunities investigating diet and physical activity in cancer prevention and survivorship in epidemiological and clinical studies.