Joanne Kotsopoulos, PhD
Joanne KotsopoulosPhD
Associate Professor
Scientist

Research Interests

Cancer epidemiology (breast, ovarian), BRCA1/2 mutation carriers; Hereditary cancer

Clinical Interests

Prognostic factors, Prevention, Genetics, Biomarkers, Lifestyle

Accepting

None

Degree/Qualifications

PhD

Appointments

Scientist, Women's College Research Institute
Associate Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto
Associate Professor, Dept. of Pharmacology & Toxicology

Joanne Kotsopoulos, PhD, Cancer Care Ontario Chair in Population Studies 

Scientist, Women’s College Research Institute, Women’s College Hospital

Associate Professor,  Dept. of Pharmaclogy & Toxicology,  Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto
 

Dr. Joanne Kotsopoulos is a Scientist with the Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit at the Women’s College Research Institute, Women’s College Hospital and an Associate Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health with a cross appointment at the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto (UofT). She received her PhD from the Department of Nutritional Sciences at UofT in 2007 and subsequently conducted her post-doctoral research training at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. While there, she took part in several studies investigating risk factors for both breast and ovarian cancer using the Nurses’ Health Study Cohorts and had the opportunity to work closely with several experts in nutritional sciences and cancer epidemiology.

 

Dr. Kotsopoulos directs molecular studies aimed at characterizing BRCA genes as haploinsufficient tumor suppressor genes and investigate whether one can modulate cancer risk by affecting gene or protein expression. The overall goal of her research is to provide women with a wider choice of less-invasive options to reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

 

She also leads several projects aimed to improve our understanding of factors that impact ovarian cancer prognosis, a highly fatal disease.

 

Research/Teaching

Research Synopsis:

Dr. Kotsopoulos returned to Canada as an independent researcher in 2009 as a recipient of a Cancer Care Ontario Chair in Population Studies. She has been awarded the Canadian Gene Cure Foundation/CIHR Champion of Genetics Grant and the Canadian Cancer Society Career Development Award in Prevention. Her research program is dedicated at furthering our understanding of BRCA-associated breast and ovarian cancer with the intent of identifying strategies that confer substantial risk reduction and improve outcome. Her efforts include identifying inherent markers (host factors) in BRCA-mutation carriers. This research may translate into putative targets for chemoprevention.

 

Dr. Kotsopoulos directs molecular studies aimed at characterizing BRCA genes as haploinsufficient tumor suppressor genes and investigate whether one can modulate cancer risk by affecting gene or protein expression. The overall goal of her research is to provide women with a wider choice of less-invasive options to reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

 

She also leads several projects aimed to improve our understanding of factors that impact ovarian cancer prognosis, a highly fatal disease.

Dr. Kotsopoulos is actively involved in teaching and mentoring of both undergraduate and graduate student at UofT.

Grants:

1) Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) research chair in Population Studies

Dr. Joanne Kotsopoulos is a scientist in the Familial Breast Cancer Research Program at the Women's College Research Institute and an associate professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, with a cross-appointment to the Department of Nutritional Sciences. She is the recipient of a Cancer Care Ontario Research Chair in Population Studies and a Canadian Cancer Society Career Development Award in Prevention.

Dr. Kotsopoulos's overall research efforts aim to help define novel strategies for the prevention, treatment and management of breast and ovarian cancer, with a specific focus on high-risk populations. Her work evaluates the potential protective effects of modifiable risk factors, including diet and lifestyle, for women at a high-risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer due to a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Currently she is studying the role of physical activity, body size and various nutrients (e.g., diindolylmethane (DIM), a nutrient that occurs naturally in cruciferous vegetables, and folate). Additional research interests include the use of biological markers (e.g., plasma hormone levels and protein expression) as predictors of disease risk and survival in epidemiological studies of breast and ovarian cancer.

2)  Canadian Gene Cure Foundation (CGCF), in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) through its Institute of Genetics

Dr. Kotsopoulos led the first animal studies concerning the effect of folate depletion and folic acid supplementation on mammary tumour development and progression,” says Narod. “Her work is considered seminal in the field of folate and breast cancer risk.”

As grants to support health research become increasingly limited and competitive, early and mid-career scientists are often at a disadvantage when pursuing funding. Yet the advancement of these scientists is integral to cultivate a growing knowledge economy in Canada, fed by important international scientific contributions.

“CGCF’s grant structure strongly supports team-building and advancement through mentorship,” says Kotsopoulos. “This is incredibly valuable because it allows us to build capacity in our research programs so that our work ultimately has a greater impact across Canada and beyond.”

 

Publications and Awards

Recent Publications

Honours and Awards

Victoria College Distinguished Alumni Award, University of Toronto, 2015

The award was created by the Alumni of Victoria College Executive at the University of Toronto to honour Victoria College alumni who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary contribution to society at large at the local, national or international level.

Kotsopoulos received the award for her outstanding research on breast and ovarian cancer. She is a key member of the Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit at WCRI, and she leads a number of studies that investigate the role of risk factors, including hormones, diet and lifestyle, in the development of breast and ovarian cancer, particularly in women who are at a high risk because of a mutation in their BRCA genes. Her discoveries are shaping the strategies that doctors, genetic counselors and women use worldwide to make important decisions around preventing and managing cancer risks.

Victoria College will be hosting an event in the spring to formally present Kotsopoulos with the award.

Canadian Cancer Society Career Development Award in Prevention, 2013-2016

November 2013, Dr. Joanne Kotsopoulos received the new Canadian Cancer Society Career Development Award in Prevention, which will provide her with protected research time and allow her develop her career as a cancer epidemiologist.  Her research aims to help define novel strategies for the prevention, treatment and management of breast and ovarian cancer with a specific focus in high-risk populations.

Canadian Gene Cure Foundation/CIHR Champion of Genetics Grant

The award honours the work of Canada’s established scientists and provides inspiration and financial support to bright young researchers in the early years of their careers.

Dr. Kotsopoulos’s research program focuses on trying to identify dietary and lifestyle factors that may influence the risk of breast or ovarian cancer among women with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. She hopes to offer data to support the development of practical and safe prevention interventions, leading to a decrease in the number of breast cancer cases and deaths attributed to a BRCAmutation. This funding will allow Dr. Kotsopoulos to evaluate whether a nutrient folate, commonly recommended to pregnant women, may in fact increase risk in BRCA mutation carriers.

The grant was awarded by the Canadian Gene Cure Foundation (CGCF), in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) through its Institute of Genetics.

Cancer Care Ontario Research Chair in Population Studies, 2009

October 2009, 

Dr. Kotsopoulos was awarded a Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) research chair in Population Studies, which supports outstanding scientists in the province.  She will begin a new body of work examining risk factors for women who have a strong family history and are at high risk of developing breast cancer, even though they do not carry a BRCA mutation.

“We will assess genetic and non-genetic factors including diet and lifestyle – among women with a family history of breast cancer and then follow them for ten years. With this information, we hope to determine what factors are associated with the development of disease,” says Dr. Kotsopoulos. “Results from this study will help us develop improved screening and prevention practices specifically for this unique group of high-risk women.”

May 2014, Dr. Joanne Kotsopoulos was awarded a Cancer Care Ontario grant for her work examining lifestyle determinants of BRCA1 expression. 

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