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Rebecca Auer, MD, MSc, FRCSC

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Rebecca Auer

Senior Scientist, Cancer Therapeutics Program
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Scientific Director, Cancer Therapeutics Program
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Professor, Department of Surgery and Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology. Faculty of Medicine
University of Ottawa
Surgical Oncologist, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry, Immunology & Microbiology
The Ottawa Hospital
Tier 2 Clinical Research Chair, Perioperative Cancer Therapeutics
University of Ottawa

Research Interests

Dr. Rebecca Auer is interested in all aspects of cancer surgery, from diagnosis to surgery for metastatic disease. As a Surgeon-Scientist, Dr. Auer heads a research laboratory and is the principle investigator in related clinical trials. Her translational research program focuses on understanding the promotion of metastatic disease in the perioperative period, following surgical stress. In particular she is studying novel perioperative cancer therapies, including oncolytic viruses, cancer vaccines and low molecular weight heparin, which inhibit the formation of metastases postoperatively.

Brief Biography

Dr. Rebecca Auer is a Surgical Oncologist and translational researcher studying the impact of surgery on the immune system and subsequent cancer recurrence. In her laboratory the focus is to develop innovative cancer therapeutics that can be administered during the perioperative period and to translate these therapies to the clinic.  With three active clinical studies of perioperative cancer therapies, Dr. Auer aims to improve cancer outcomes for all patients who undergo invasive cancer surgeries. 

After receiving the Gold Medal in Medicine at Queen's University, Dr. Auer moved to Ottawa to undertake her residency in General Surgery while concurrently completing an MSc in Biochemistry at the University of Ottawa.  Following this, she completed a fellowship in Surgical Oncology at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York where she served as Chief Fellow for the Department of Surgery.  In 2007, Dr. Auer was recruited to Ottawa and currently holds the position of Surgical Oncologist at the Ottawa Hospital, Scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) and Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery and the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Ottawa.

Dr. Auer is a pioneer in the field of perioperative cancer therapeutics. Her research is among the first to explore the mechanisms responsible for the promotion of cancer growth and metastases that occurs after surgery. Her work has clarified a mediating role for Natural Killer cell suppression induced by surgical stress and is currently elucidating pathways involved in this effect. Moreover, she has developed and translated two non-traditional immune therapies from her laboratory discoveries to clinical trials, including perioperative low molecular-weight heparin and oncolytic viruses. This work was recently recognized by the Canadian Cancer Society as one of the top research discoveries of 2013 and has been profiled in Scientific America and the Scientist. 
Dr. Auer is a leader in the field of Surgical Oncology. She is an expert member of Cancer Care Ontario’s Colorectal and Sarcoma Disease Panels, a member of the Ontario Cancer Research Ethics Board, a member of the National Cancer Institute of Canada’s Colorectal Disease Oncology Group, the Ontario Regional Biotherapeutics Program, the Terry Fox Canadian Oncolytic Virus Consortium, and she currently serves on the executive of the Society of Surgical Oncology and the Association of Academic Surgeons. 

Selected Publications

Zhang J, Tai LH, Ilkow C, Alkayyal AA, Abhirami AA, Tanese de Souza C, Lefevbre C, Falls TJ, Bell JC, Stojdl D, Auer RC*. Preventing metastases by perioperative targeting of natural killer cell dysfunction with Maraba MG1 virotherapy. Mol Ther 2013;7(22):1320-1332. IF:6.825.

Tai LH, Tanese de Souza C, Sahi S, Zhang J, Alkayyal A, Ananth A, Auer RC*. A Mouse Tumor Model of Surgical Stress to Explore the Mechanisms of Postoperative Immunosuppression and Evaluate Novel Perioperative Immunotherapies. J Visualized Experiments 2014;85. IF: 1.9.

Tai LH, Zhang J, Tanese de Sousa C, Alkayyal A, Ananth AA, Sahi S, Mahmoud AB, Bell JC, Makrigiannis A, Auer RC*. Perioperative influenza vaccination reduces postoperative metastatic disease by reversing surgery-induced dysfunction in natural killer cells. Clin Cancer Res 2013;19(18):5104-15. IF:7.742.

Tai LH, Tanese de Sousa C, Rintoul J, Ly L, Zhang J, Falls TJ, Belanger S, Bell JC, Makrigiannis A, Auer RC*. Preventing postoperative metastases by enhancing natural killer cell function with novel oncolytic virus therapy. Cancer Res 2013;73(1):97-107. IF:7.338.

Diseases, conditions and populations of interest

Research and clinical approaches