Vuk Stambolic spends his days grappling with some of medicine’s most vexing riddles: what causes a cancerous tumour to form and what allows it to grow?
A scientist with the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto, Stambolic (MA 1993, PhD 1997) is investigating a single gene that may help to suppress tumour formation. He and his colleagues are running experiments with genetically engineered mice that have only one copy of the gene instead of the usual two. “These mice are incredibly prone to tumours,” he says.
The potentially life-saving applications of genetic cancer research make it “an intensely competitive field,” says Stambolic, 38. He agrees that his discoveries could revolutionize cancer treatment, but he prefers to leave the practical applications of his research to biotech companies. “I like to be at the hub of an idea, the place where things start to happen,” he says.
Stambolic completed a bachelor of science in molecular biology and physiology at the University of Belgrade. He and his wife, Tanya, left the Yugoslavian city of his birth because they thought Canada would be a better place to continue their studies and raise children.
If there’s one blemish in what Stambolic refers to as “a charmed life” – he is an assistant professor in medical biophysics at U of T and has two children – it’s that he’s away from the research lab more than he would like. Still, he says, “I’m living my original vision of a scientist’s life. I have students to supervise, experiments to design and ideas to share with colleagues. There’s excitement every day.”