Academic Rank:
Professor
Affiliation(s):
Department of Molecular Oncology, British Columbia Cancer Agency
Location:
BC Cancer Agency

Short Bio:

Dr. Poul Sorensen is a board certified anatomic pathologist, specializing in the molecular pathology of pediatric cancers. He undertook his undergraduate, medical, and PhD degrees at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and McGill University, Montreal. He completed postdoctoral training at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, University of Southern California, after his Pathology training. He then returned to Vancouver to start his own laboratory at Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Vancouver. Dr. Sorensen holds the Asa and Kashmir Johal Endowed Chair in Childhood Cancer Research, and he is Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UBC. Dr. Sorensen’s research laboratory is located in the Department of Molecular Oncology at the BC Cancer Research Centre, where he is a senior scientist. His research focuses on targeting aberrant signaling pathways that are activated in childhood cancers and breast carcinoma.

Dr. Sorensen’s laboratory uses a combination of genetic and biochemical approaches to identify proteins that are specifically altered in human tumours. His laboratory has discovered many novel genetic alterations in childhood cancer and breast tumours, and these discoveries have been translated into new diagnostic tests for specific tumours, and have advanced our understanding of how the involved proteins transmit signals that cause cells to become cancerous. Such information then allows for the rapid implementation of strategies to target these proteins therapeutically. Dr. Sorensen is also the Chair of the Translational Research Committee of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), the largest pediatric oncology clinical trials network in the world.

Academic Backgrounds:
  • Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (FRCPC) – Anatomical Pathology. 1991
  • PhD, University of British Columbia, Canada. 1990
  • MD, University of British Columbia, Canada. 1984
  • BSc (Honours Chemistry /Biochemistry), McGill University, Montreal, Canada. 1980
Selected Publications
Research:

The overall premise of my research is that a greater understanding of how childhood cancer cells respond to extra- or intracellular signals is necessary to identify tumour-specific pathways. Only then can these pathways be targeted therapeutically in a manner that minimizes effects on normal cells. This is especially important in childhood cancer to avoid toxic effects of treatments on the intellectual, physical, and emotional development of a growing child. An ongoing difficulty with this approach is how to find the relevant pathways to target. Over the years we have chosen to characterize recurrent genetic alterations in childhood tumours as a means to more efficiently identify novel cancer genes. This is part of our belief that analysis of primary tumours is preferable for initial identification of pathophysiologically relevant alterations in human malignancies. With the advent of next-generation sequencing, we are now extending this approach to whole genome sequencing of childhood cancers to better understand the mutational landscape of these tumours. Then, once the involved proteins have been identified, model systems can be invoked to further study their biology and how the pathways they are involved in become activated. We then use various biochemical approaches as well as high-throughput platforms such as RNA interference screening to rigorously characterize the involved proteins, their functional interactors, and the signal transduction pathways they participate in. This forms the basis for subsequent strategies to therapeutically target candidate proteins in childhood cancers.