Campus Digest: Can a gold-plated micro-chip detect the growth of cancer?

A multi-disciplinary team of researchers, led by scientists in London and Toronto, is developing a simple tool that could one day make it easier to choose the best available cancer treatments for individual patients and improve their chances for survival.

Western Biochemistry professor Dr. David Litchfield and a team that includes leaders in biological and physical sciences, as well as clinicians in the Division of Hematology at London Health Sciences Centre, are developing a specialized tool — a small gold-plated chip layered with sensors — able to detect the activity of cell molecules (protein kinases) often involved in cancer growth.

With a new $200,000 Innovation Grant, Litchfield and his team are aiming to further develop this technology so numerous protein kinases can be monitored simultaneously. The team, co-led by University of Toronto (Scarborough) chemistry professor Dr. Bernie Kraatz, will also test the tool in cell lines and blood samples from leukemia patients. This information will help the team determine which protein kinases are involved in a patient’s cancer growth.

If successful, doctors will be able to use the tool to learn more about a patient’s tumour, so they can select the best available treatment based on the tumour’s characteristics.

A total of 37 grants representing a $7.2 million investment across the country were announced recently, with 20 in Ontario alone. The Canadian Cancer Society is the largest national charitable funder of cancer research in Canada.


  • In keeping with the Public Sector Disclosure Act, Western has released its annual list of employees whose 2012 income met or exceeded $100,000, as reflected on their T4 slips. Also outlined on the list are taxable benefits for the year 2012. The list is now available on Western’s Public Accountability webpage.
  • The Faculty of Health Sciences will be removing its aquatics milestone requirement from the undergraduate Kinesiology program this September. For many years, students in the program were required to take a team sport, individual sport, racquet sport and aquatics. As the program evolved from Physical Activity to Kinesiology, all of the other activity requirements were dropped with the exception of aquatics.
    Currently, it is the only physical activity in the program that is mandatory and, unlike the other milestones – for example CPR – it is the only one that is graded. While aquatics activities will still be offered as part of the curriculum, they will no longer be mandatory.
  • First-year student Victoria Chok, who was among the youngest delegates at the 2012 Global Youth Summit in England, was one of a handful Canadians at the 2013 Three Dot Dash Summit, held this month, in New York City. The summit is a global initiative of the We are Family Foundation, recognizing the efforts of teen leaders worldwide who are involved in initiatives that promote peaceful societies. At the summit, 30 global teen leaders gathered to network, exchange ideas and are supported in their initiatives by an assigned mentor.
    Chok founded a charity talent show in her hometown of Markham that supports various causes – among them the rebuilding of a well in Malawi – by encouraging artists to showcase their talents while raising funds for their art. She said her initiative fosters peace by encouraging freedom of expression.
    “The talent show promotes peace because it brings community together,” she said.
    “It’s been said, ‘Artists are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.’ You can bring out a message peacefully and you can convey any message possible through so many mediums and that strikes as very powerful. This promotes a peaceful society through this peaceful messaging.”
    Chok is also part of Nspire Innovation Network, a group of young leaders passionate about business and technology.
  • Dr. John Denstedt, Department of Surgery chair/chief and special advisor to the dean on internationalization and simulation, will soon be taking on two additional leadership roles within his urology specialty.  Denstedt will join the board of directors of the American Urological Association in May, becoming only the third Canadian board member in its 111-year history. He will also co-chair the 3rd International Consultation on Kidney Stone Disease by the Société Internationale D’Urologie, a large international urology group.
  • Western student and recording artist Genevieve Fisher is among the nominees for the 2013 Jack Richardson Music Awards (JRMA), announced last week by the awards steering committee. More than 20 awards will be handed out in a variety of categories at the 2013 JRMA event at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 14 at The Music Hall, 185 Queens Ave. Admission is free.
    The event features a number of Western connections beyond Fisher: Grant Stein, 94.9 CHRW station manager, served as committee chair this year; Josh Clark, University Students’ Council production manager, will produce the event.
    The awards – named for legendary Canadian music producer Jack Richardson – is in its ninth year as London’s only grassroots, not-for-profit recognition of musical excellence.
    For a full list of nominees, or more details, visit