The Berman Laboratory

Dr. David Berman’s Research Laboratory
Queen’s University Kingston Ontario

We discover and evaluate novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets that can rapidly improve the lives of patients with bladder and prostate cancer. To do this, we integrate information from massive genomic databases, our own experimental studies, and carefully curated human biospecimens. The result is a powerful approach that uses every available type of analysis. The laboratory has ongoing projects refining the use of a variety of biomarkers to guide clinical management.

The animation shows the means by which a single cancer stem cell might form a tumor nodule, with the stem cells lined up on the outside of the nodule and the more differentiated cells residing in the nodule’s interior (see our publications on cancer stem cells). The bottom panel depicts the organization of cells in normal benign epithelial tissues. Note the similar organization of stem cells and differentiated cells in benign epithelium and cancer.

Our experimental work has identified genes such as SOX9, Nestin, and members of the Notch signaling pathway, which pattern urogenital organs in the embryo and remodel tissues after injury. We have found that these same signals are also reactivated in cancers, helping them form, grow and spread. Within urogenital cancers, some cells are particularly prolific, serving as so called “cancer stem cells.” We identified basal cells in bladder cancers and showed that they function as cancer stem cells with unique functions in tumour-stroma interactions. Ongoing projects in the laboratory examine these interactions and their potential changes through different stages of bladder cancer progression.

Diagram shows the initial development of the prostate from an embryonic structure called the urogenital sinus (UGS). In males, androgens (testosterone and its derivatives) drive cells in the UGS to proliferate and invade, forming the immature prostate.