Tragic story of Alberta student inspires University of Windsor brain tumour research

University of Windsor student Alex Rodzinka’s incentive to study brain tumours goes beyond funding from the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.

He has the story of Taite Boomer, a University of Alberta business student who died of a brain tumour at age 20 in 2012. The research by Rodzinka and a handful of other university students across Canada is being funded in memory of Boomer. 
“You see the other side,” Rodzinka said of reading about the young man his age who died months after being diagnosed with a fast-growing brain cancer.
“Research is one side where you’re doing all the work for something and you get the other view of people who are actually affected and you see how much your work actually matters.
“For me, that made me want to work harder.”
The third-year biochemistry student was chosen for the foundation’s brain tumour research studentship program and became one of 22 university students since 2013 who have received $10,000 grants that allow them to conduct brain tumour research for two summers.

Rodzinka was volunteering in the research lab of Lisa Porter — a University of Windsor biology professor and scientific director of the Windsor Cancer Research Group — when he was encouraged to apply. He has already completed a summer of research with the funding from the Taite Boomer Memorial Brain Tumour Foundation through the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.
He wrote a letter to the Boomer family thanking them for the research opportunity. Through various fundraisers, the Boomer family alone has raised more than $82,000 for research.

Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada CEO Susan Marshall said the foundation was concerned about the lack of interest from university students to study brain tumours. So the foundation, which relies solely on donations, started funding the research for what it hopes is the next generation of scientists focused on finding better treatments for brain tumours.
“There was a lack of what was needed to bring young people into the brain tumour field, expose the students to the work and to fuel that passion that hopefully they will stay in the field and contribute to the potential new treatments or, dare I say, a cure in the future,” Marshall said.
Marshall said about 10,000 people a year are diagnosed with a brain tumour. Canada needs more information on the prevalence of brain tumours, which may be under-reported, so the foundation has started a brain tumour registry.
Rodzinka is studying three specific proteins that are more prevalent in aggressive forms of brain cancer. He wants to see if removing one affects the cancer’s growth. He uses zebra fish and injects them with the proteins in different combinations. 
“This has never been done before,” he said.
He will also work with the Spy1 protein that Porter’s lab studies and is found in high levels in aggressive forms of cancer.
Rodzinka admits he has been intrigued by neuroscience since grade school.
“What’s fascinating to me about the brain is there’s so much we don’t know about it.”

Source: The Windsor Star