Research Awards

Dr. R. Mitchell Baldwin

Winner of the Dr. Ronald G. Worton Researcher in Training Award (2009)
at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Brain cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to treat, not only because the brain is so difficult to operate on, but also because brain cancers seem to have a natural resistance to chemotherapy and radiation, and because they grow and spread very quickly. Indeed, people diagnosed with the most common type of brain tumour, glioblastoma multiforme, can only expect to live about a year. These facts helped convince Mitch Baldwin that research was urgently needed in the area, and that he might be able to make an important contribution.

In his last six years as a graduate student at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) and the University of Ottawa, Mitch has looked at brain cancer cells almost every day in the lab, doing careful experiments to try to determine what makes these cells so deadly. Working with Dr. Ian Lorimer as a mentor in the OHRI's Cancer Therapeutics Program, he found that a protein called "PKC iota" plays a crucial role in helping brain cancer cells spread and resist certain chemotherapies. He and others now think that a drug targeted against PKC iota could be an important tool in fighting brain cancer. There is a long way to go before such a drug might be ready for testing in the clinic, but in a disease this deadly, every avenue is worth pursuing.

Dr. Baldwin received his PhD earlier this year from the University of Ottawa's Department of Biochemistry. He hopes to eventually have his own small laboratory, but for now he is continuing his research as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Lorimer. So far, he has published five original research papers, mentored a number of younger students and received highly competitive awards such as the Terry Fox Foundation Studentship, the Ontario Graduate Scholarship in Science and Technology and the Stem Cell Network Graduate Studentship. Colleagues describe him as someone with natural leadership ability, who is often sought out for advice and collaboration. According to Dr. Michael McBurney, Director of the Cancer Therapeutics Program, he has "the psyche, the imagination and the courage to take on important problems".