Sarah obtained her BSc (1997) and her PhD (2004) from the University of British Columbia Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
During her PhD, Sarah pioneered the investigation of the Rap1 GTPase in the lab of her supervisor, Dr. Michael Gold. She demonstrated Rap1 activation downstream of the B cell antigen receptor and then investigated the function of Rap1 in B lymphocytes, showing that Rap1 activation is required for integrin-mediated adhesion and chemokine-directed cell migration ( McLeod et al, 1998, McLeod et al, 2002 and McLeod et al, 2004).
From 2004 to 2007 Sarah did post-doctoral training at the University of British Columbia with Dr. Calvin Roskelley in the Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences, extending her work with the Rap1 GTPase to investigate its role in tumour biology. She looked at Rap1 in the regulation of cancer cell adhesion, motility and invasion using in vitro cell-line models and also investigated its role in the metastasis of cancer cells to the lung using in vivo models ( Freeman et al, 2010). In 2008, Sarah accepted a one year research associate position in the lab of Dr. Michel Roberge in the Department of Biochemistry, where she worked on the development of high throughput microscopy-based screens for inhibitors of cancer cell motility.
Teaching & mentoring
In 2009, Sarah joined the BCIT Department of Biotechnology. She currently teaches the Microbiology 3 course (focus on Immunology and Virology) to the joint BCIT-UBC BSc Honours in Biotechnology students, and has also taught the Cell Biology, Virology and Immunology components of the Associate Certificate in Biotechnology.
In spring 2010, together with Paula Brown, Director of the Integrated Biosciences Research Cluster (IBRC), Sarah co-mentored high school students on a science fair project investigating the anti-proliferative effects of Dandelion extracts on melanoma cells. She is also active as a mentor in the Student Biotechnology Network.
In recent years, Sarah’s major area of research is identifying the role of inflammation in the development and progression of chronic human diseases, such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Cell-based assays are being developed for the testing of compounds and natural health products (NHPs) for their anti-inflammatory potential.
Sarah was also a co-investigator with her colleague, Joan Shellard, on an NSERC Engage funded project that assisted iProgen Biotechnologies, a local, early-stage company in the development of their novel protein therapeutics.
Inflammation & breast cancer progression
With a grant awarded from the BCIT Institute Research Funds, Sarah is investigating the role of inflammation-promoting immune cells known as tumour-associated macrophages in breast cancer progression. Specifically, she is investigating the role of the secreted chitinase-like proteins, YKL-40 and YKL-39, in the interactions that occur between tumour-associated macrophages and breast cancer cells. These interactions appear to drive breast tumour progression, and finding ways to disrupt them may provide novel approaches to breast cancer treatment.
Sarah McLeod, PhD