Dr. Komarova obtained a master’s degree in Physics (M.Sc.) in 1991 at the Moscow State University, Russia, and a Ph.D. in Biophysics in 1996 from the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics, in Pushchino, Russia. She completed her postdoctoral training at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery of the University of Cincinnati and, finally, at the University of Western Ontario with the CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research), more specifically in the Institute dedicated to skeletal development and remodeling. She joined the Faculty of Dentistry at McGill University in 2004.
Why Choosing Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in adult women in Canada and worldwide. The disease is characterized by a very early spread of cancer cells from the breast to the blood stream and often results in the formation of secondary tumours (metastases). Bone is one of the most common sites for metastases from breast cancer. Moreover, a majority of metastatic patients will have the main burden of their tumours at the bony sites. Bone metastases frequently cause bone aches that are difficult to treat, fractures that do not heal, and even lower limb paralysis from spinal column collapse. The aim of our studies is to develop a targeted therapy to stop the processes that drive the painful growth of tumour deposits at the bony metastatic sites. Breast cancer cells arriving at the bone secrete chemicals that activate osteoclasts, the bone-degrading cells. Osteoclasts are important players in the formation of metastases because breast cancer damages bone through activation of osteoclasts. Osteoclasts can also support further cancer cell growth by releasing growth factors stored in bone. Moreover, osteoclasts play a role in the development of metastatic bone pain. We hope that our work will help to better understand the progression of breast cancer metastasis in bone and will be instrumental in developing more efficient treatments in order to improve patients’ quality of life.
A Scientific Accomplishment You Are Proud of
In our studies of osteolytic skeletal metastases, we have identified new mechanisms underlying the ability of breast cancer cells to create successful interactions with bone cells and investigated the events triggered in bone microenvironment by soluble factors produced by breast cancer, prior to the arrival of cancer cells. Moreover, we examined how growth of cancer lesions within bone induces bone destruction and, in parallel, an increase in sensitivity to mechanical and thermal stimulation, which is reflective of pain. We have demonstrated that, in animal models, treatment with rapamycin, an immunomodulatory drug, produces promising results, as it alleviates both bone destruction and pain.
Field(s) of Research
- Bone destruction in physiological and pathological conditions
2015 – Distinguished Visitor Award, Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences
2006-2016 – Canada Research Chair, Tier 2
2004-2005 – Scholar Award, Canadian Arthritis Network
1997-1999 – Postdoctoral Fellowship, United States National Research Council
1995-1996 – Soros Graduate Student Award, International Soros Science Education Program
1991 – Khokhlov Award for Excellence in Research, School of Physics, Moscow State University
Projects Funded by the Foundation
The link between osteolysis and pain during breast cancer metastases to bone (co-applicant with Dr. Laura Stone, McGill University)