Women in Science and The Prostate Cancer Foundation - Amina Zoubeidi

December 6, 2021

Amina Zoubeidi joins Alicia Morgans in a conversation on the evolution of her career and how the Prostate Cancer Foundation (The PCF) played a pivotal role in supporting her research initiatives and the collaboration and friendships that result from the Women in Science Program at the PCF Annual Retreat.  PCF  consistently demonstrates a commitment to women scientists by supporting their research. The PCF is committed to fostering a community of innovation and excellence, where hard work and oath to patients are given the absolute greatest opportunity to succeed. Dr. Zoubeidi also shares that earlier this year in 2021, she was awarded the Canada Research Chair 1 in Cancer Therapy Resistance.

Dr. Zoubeidi’s research program aims to provide mechanistic insight into the molecular (genetic and epigenetic) sources that fuel tumor cell plasticity and emergent resistance phenotypes following targeted therapy. She leverages this knowledge to identify early detection biomarkers and nominate new targets to block the mechanisms utilized by tumor cells to gain access to cell plasticity that can be used alone or in combination to improve the efficacy of existing therapies and patient outcomes. Importantly, as lineage reprogramming is emerging as a conserved mechanism of resistance across tumor types, results from this program may have relevance in other highly prevalent cancers, such as melanoma and lung and breast cancer.


Biographies:

Amina Zoubeidi, BSc, MSc, Ph.D., is a Professor at the Department of Urologic Sciences and Senior Scientist at the Vancouver Prostate Centre. She is Michael Smith Scholar, who received multiple awards including PCF Challenge Award, UBC Faculty of Medicine Distinguished Achievement Awards for Overall Excellence-Early Career (2014) and for Excellence in Basic Science (2018), and three Teaching Awards for Excellence in Basic Science, Department of Urologic Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia (2014, 2017 & 2018).

Dr. Zoubeidi has been awarded a number of prestigious grants, including a Prostate Cancer Canada Translation Acceleration Grant, US Prostate Cancer Foundation Challenge Award, and numerous Canadian Institute of Health Research awards and Terry Fox Research Institute awards. 

Alicia Morgans, MD, MPH, Genitourinary Medical Oncologist, Medical Director of Survivorship Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts


Read the Full Video Transcript

Alicia Morgans: Hi, my name is Alicia Morgans and I'm a GU Medical Oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston in the US. I'm so excited to have here with me today Dr. Amina Zoubeidi, who is a Senior Research Scientist at the Vancouver Prostate Center, as well as being a Professor in the Department of Urologic Sciences at the University of British Columbia. She is also the Canada Research Chair in Cancer Therapy Resistance. Thank you so much for being here with me today Dr. Zoubeidi.

Amina Zoubeidi: Thank you so much Alicia for having me, and welcome to my home. I'm talking to you today from my house, and I hope we can see each other and you can come to Vancouver and I can see you here.

Alicia Morgans: I would love that and you have a beautiful home, and you also have a beautiful history of research in prostate cancer, and I would just love to hear your take on the evolution of your career and how you got to where you are.

Amina Zoubeidi: Well you know my journey started a long time ago as a grad student, and I was fortunate to start my Ph.D. with amazing women in prostate cancer.  I was working on kinases and their role in prostate cancer progression. I think that having this role model in front of me, this woman who was a Professor [inaudible 00:01:13] Miguel, drives me to see that I can do it. And I think that it is more about the mentor and the mentee, and my research started earlier. I think this, this one.... I remember when I started research in prostate cancer with just a few women, I'm just talking about the case in Canada, but today it is so interesting to see these amazing scientists and amazing clinician-scientists in the field. It is just fantastic and making us all being, as being in the world of men or men's disease, because there is no world of men, but the men's disease and how we can make a difference today.

Alicia Morgans: I think that's a great point, and it is interesting that when you started there were, there were fewer women, of course, and that has evolved over time. I know that your work has been funded by so many places, and you've done so many exciting and innovative projects. I'd love to hear your thoughts on those awards that have come specifically from PCF and, what your thoughts are there in terms of their commitment to women scientists, which I think has only grown over the last number of years.

Amina Zoubeidi: Well, I have to say that PCF was the first award that I got as an independent scientist. I have this...I do believe personally if I didn't get this PCF young investigator award in 2010, I do not think that I could have achieved what I achieved today because the Prostate Cancer Foundation does not only offer salary support or a grant, it supports a whole network.  I believe that PCF in which we call the village that can raise a kid, and that is what the Prostate Cancer Foundation is. I think every time that I was going to PCF and watching those people giving those talks, I was looking at them, and I said, "I wish one day I can give a talk at the PCF," it was this driving thing going every, every time to the PCF retreats and hoping I can be there, and that makes a huge difference in my career.

It is this external validation coming, just being a part of this PCF makes a difference for me because they pushed me to be better and better and better. Not only that, you know, I've been very fortunate to receive also a Challenge Award from PCF, which allowed me to grow at a really specific time of my career and to show that I can do it and that I didn't stop there.  I didn't stop there because of all the support that PCF is giving to women in science. I started being involved in PCF Women in Science, which just consolidates everything for me.  It consolidates not only my career but also my self-confidence as a woman in the field. That support impacts me and I believe impacted so many other people, so many other women. I do believe it's not very specific only to women in science, or in prostate cancer, but I think it's general for anybody who is an early investigator when they have so many hurdles somehow rather than challenges.  We can do it because PCF offers this well-organized platform to support you and facilitate your research through collaborations.

Alicia Morgans: I think it's so interesting that that was your first grant. That was my first grant as well. And it is something that I think as a young investigator, to know that your colleagues, the people that you look up to, the people giving those talks at the meetings are the ones reviewing your grant, that you know that they're picking that apart, but still they have found that your grant is worth funding is incredible, as you said, just confidence-building and does bring you into the fold, so I love that. I also love as I've watched you for the last number of years participating in the PCF Women in Science day, and that whole celebration and education of how we can work together as women and continue to lift each other up. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that particular day and the importance of recognizing women in science through that forum.

Amina Zoubeidi: I think that this is very important to celebrate each other. I think that we forget to celebrate and now we have one day that we can look at each other and we can say "we did it, we're good." It's just positive, it's a simple thing, but it is extremely positive, but also celebrating others that they are young or well established or at the verge of retirement and celebrate those things. It just highlights the achievements, it is very important. And I think sometimes we are in the shadow of others, and today I think that we are doing very well. I think that the future is bright for us.  We hear a lot that there is not a lot of women in leadership positions, not necessarily because they don't want to be in leadership but because of the culture, but we are changing and we are moving forward.

And what PCF is doing, is just giving us this opportunity.  PCF is giving women in science a chance to be proud of themselves, to say I can do it, I can organize a day, I can mentor, and I can make a difference. That is what women in science are about, all that celebration, mentoring, supporting in every aspect, such a positive day, such a positive environment, that we all, as women, we know, even when we were teenagers, we know, we know that we need this friendship, we know that we need be part of a group.  That is who we are as women and I think the PCF Women in Science offers that, it brings us together and it is incredible.

Alicia Morgans: It is incredible. And I think it's a unique opportunity through the PCF to have that. And, you know the other thing that I wanted to comment on and to hear your thoughts on that is incredible is your elevation, your competition, and then subsequently your naming as the Canada Research Chair in Cancer Therapy Resistance, that came from somewhere and brought you to such an amazing position. I would love to hear a little bit more about that important role that you play.

Amina Zoubeidi: I'm going to start again, that it is about PCF, it was the first thing. Yeah, and you know, building on that PCF, the confidence that PCF gave me with this young investigator, award, going to PCF and the person next to me and that I will not name, I could name certain names, telling me what is new in your research that is driving me. And I know that people's expectations are high. And from there you go from one to the other, to the other, and you're performing and performing with this beautiful network of collaboration that PCF offered to us, really with the click, if somebody doesn't respond to you, just contact Howard Soule and the collaboration would be there. You know what Canada did, Canada figured out that women in science, women are not yet at... Is not because they are not there yet, but they are not having these leadership positions.

And they pushed the universities to put women forward, they didn't say that you are not going to be having men, but to have men, but also, where are the women? You know, for example, for this Canada Research Chair, it was like a very low number of women. And the government decides that society is 50/50, and we should recognize women in Science, in Literature, in History. And that is what happened, and I think that initiated from the government is helping so much.  PCF is doing it at a certain scale, but in Canada, they are trying to do it at a larger scale as in, it is very extremely competitive, not only in your department or your faculty or the university, but when you go, your file goes through all this, then it goes to the governments, you are competing with History, you're competing with Engineering, you're competing with everything.  And we are all in a pool.

I was fortunate to be awarded this Canada Research Chair. And it is how this chair is also about how you can retain talent and specifically talented people in science, in my case as a woman was important, that for them how we can retain that coming from, you know, you have an obligation, you have salary support from the government, you have a [inaudible 00:10:15] government, but not it's not really, but that is kind of a word that we have to acknowledge every time we have it.

Alicia Morgans: Well, congratulations. This is a huge honor that you clearly have been awarded for what you do and the impact and the influence that you have, and those that you have helped to elevate with you and your mentees and your collaborators. So I sincerely congratulate you of course, but also appreciate your time and sharing your experiences with me.

Amina Zoubeidi: Thank you very much Alicia for having me.
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