Dr. Stephen Robbins, PhD
Cumming School of Medicine, Department of Oncology
Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute
Child Health & Wellness Researcher
Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute
B.S. Biological Sciences, York University, 1985
Doctor of Philosophy Medical Specializations, University of British Columbia, 1991
Dr. Stephen Robbins is currently the Scientific Director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Cancer Research. He is also the Co-Chair of the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance, a group that represents over 30 of the major cancer research funders in the country. He completed his undergraduate degree at York University in 1985 and then completed his PhD in 1991 at the University of British Columbia in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. He then obtained his passion for cancer research while pursuing his postdoctoral studies (1991-1996) under Nobel laureate, Dr. J. Michael Bishop at the University of California at San Francisco. He joined the University of Calgary in 1996 where he is now a Professor in the Departments of Oncology and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He was a Scientist of the Alberta Innovates Health Solutions (formerly known as the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research) and held a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Molecular Genetics of Cancer for 10 years. He completed his term as the Director of the Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute at the University of Calgary and was the Associate Director Research for Alberta Health Services Cancer Care. Dr. Robbins has had a long-standing interest in understanding the biochemical circuitry that controls cellular proliferation and differentiation and how this circuitry goes awry in cancer. During his research career he has taken a more translational approach including defining new therapies for malaria, has discovered a novel class of anti-inflammatory agents and identified new therapeutic targets for brain tumours. In addition to maintaining a productive research program he is also committed to teaching and has won several awards with respect to these activities at the University of Calgary.
Areas of Research
- Molecular and experimental therapeutics for cancer
- Molecular biology and disease
- Cell signaling and structure
The research in my laboratory focuses on how extracellular signals are transmitted to the nucleus to control such biological processes as growth and differentiation of eukaryotic cells. An elaborate circuitry of biochemical reactions mediates the proliferation and differentiation of mammalian cells. We have gained access to this circuitry through the study of genes implicated in the genesis of human cancer: proto-oncogenes, which suffer genetic damage in cancer cells leading to an unwanted gain of function. Proto-oncogenes serve as accelerators leading the cell into relentless cell division. Many of the proteins encoded by proto-oncogenes serve as relays in the biochemical pathways that transmit signals from the surface of the cell to the nucleus. Several of the genes encode protein kinases that phosphorylate proteins on tyrosine residues. The understanding of how these molecules participate in various signal transduction pathways to control such biological processes as cellular proliferation and differentiation are essential for us to fully understand the biochemical maladies of cancer.
The specific research aims in my laboratory include:
1. To determine the role of the Src-family protein tyrosine kinases during the differentiation and activation of hematopoietic cells. To this end we are identifying upstream and downstream components of the Src signaling pathways.
2. To determine how compartmentalized signaling within the cell influences phenotypic outcomes of particular extracellular signals. We have previously shown that Src family kinases and other signaling molecules are localized on caveolae: what is the function of this enigmatic organelle?
Membrane microdomains such as caveolae are sites of signal transduction. Many cell types including fibroblasts and endothelial cells contain small flask shaped invaginations of the plasma membrane such as the ones shown in the electron micrograph. These structures are enriched in various signaling molecules including cell surface receptors that are attached by a lipid anchor as shown for the neuronal guidance molecule, Ephrin-A5 (immunofluorescence).
Participation in university strategic initiatives
- award, 2013
- commendation, 2013
- AHFMR Senior Scientist, 2011
- Canada Research Chair in Cancer Biology TierII, 2011
- award, 2009
- Fellowship, 2008
- commendation, Canada Research Chair. 2006
- AHFMR Senior Scholar, 2004
- award, 2004
- Canada Research Chair in Cancer Biology, 2004
- award, 2002
- award, 2001
- award, 1996
- Fellowship, 1994
- award, 1993
- scholarship, 1983
- award, 1979
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