Our Team

Dr. William Foulkes, MBBS,Ph.D, FRCPC

         Principal Investigator


Dr. William Foulkes is a James McGill Professor in the Departments of Medicine, Oncology and Human Genetics at McGill University. He is a researcher-clinician who has practiced clinical cancer genetics at McGill-affiliated hospitals since 1996 and who heads cancer genetics research laboratories at two McGill-affiliated, hospital-based research institutes, the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research of the Jewish General Hospital and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (London) and in 2016 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He has served as a Komen Scholar since 2010.

He is best known for his work on the clinico-pathological features of hereditary breast cancer and for his discovery and characterization of cancer predisposing founder mutations in Montreal populations, including a germline pathogenic missense variant in MSH2 in the Ashkenazim and disease-causing variants in PALB2 and RAD51D in French Canadians. In collaboration with Jacek Majewski, he identified biallelic variants in SMARCA4 as the sole cause of small cell carcinoma of the ovary, hypercalcemic type. He collaborates extensively with medical professionals and researchers around the world to better understand the genetics of breast, colorectal and ovarian cancer. Recently, he has focused on the characterization of the DICER1 pleiotropic tumor predisposition syndrome; with nearly forty publications, his team has extensively defined the phenotypes linked to the syndrome defined the phenotypes linked to the syndrome and is exploring the functional impact of inherited mutations in DICER1.




Nancy Hamel
Lab Manager
A McGill graduate in molecular genetics, Nancy joined the lab as a research technician based at the RIMUHC in 1997. Now a research associate, she manages projects at both research sites, assists with grant applications and handles lab finances. She is also responsible for day-to-day management and technical support of fellows and students at the RIMUHC site.
Razia Chanda
Administrative Assistant
Razia was the clinical administrative assistant for the Medical Genetics Group at the JGH for over 10 years before joining the lab in 2016 as the research administrative assistant.
Nelly Sabbaghian
Research Technician
Nelly has been a research technician with the lab since 2009. She has a wide range of skills in molecular biology and tissue culture techniques. She is based at the LDI site and provides day-to-day management and technical support for fellows and students at that site.
Somayyeh Fahiminiya, PhD
Research Associate
Somayyeh is our research associate in bioinformatics. Her interests include developing & implementing new bioinformatic methods & tools to facilitate next generation (epi)genomic data analysis. She works closely with our postdocs and PhD students to interpret NGS genetic information on various gene discovery projects for rare genetic diseases and cancer.
Marcos Clavier
IT Specialist
Marcos joined our team in early 2016 as a research assistant. He develops IT frameworks for related projects, his tasks include; data collection, Access and SQL databases, web and mobile development. He provides support to team members with the various data management and communication technologies required for our research projects.
Leanne de Kock, B. Tech.
PhD Candidate
Leanne is a PhD candidate who moved to Canada from South Africa to join the lab in 2012. Her project focuses on dissecting the specific mutations involved in the development of rare tumours associated with inherited DICER1 mutations, with a particular emphasis on pituitary blastoma.
Mona Wu, MSc.
PhD Candidate
Mona joined the lab as a research assistant, then became a PhD candidate co-supervised by Dr. Foulkes and Dr. Marc Fabian of the LDI in 2013. Her research aims at elucidating the functional consequences of germline and somatic DICER1 mutations in cellular model systems.
Cameron Levins, B.Sc.
MSc Candidate
Cameron joined our lab as a graduate student in September 2016 after graduating from a Biochemistry Honours degree at Bishop University. He is co-supervised by our collaborator Sid Huang and works on SCCOHT.
Nadia Zayed, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Nadia joined our team as a post-doctoral fellow in the fall of 2014. Her previous work at UofM in osteoarthritis and at McGill conducting research on preclinical models brought a new dimension to our team. She is the recipient of a prestigious post-doctoral research award generously offered by the Mitch Garber Family.
Barbara Rivera Polo, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Barbara is a post-doctoral fellow who joined the group in 2013. She is a graduate of the University of Salamanca in Madrid, Spain. She is active on multiple projects in the lab, including genetic characterisation of breast tumours, expression profiling of DICER1-related tumours and the search for genetic predisposition genes in rare familial tumours.

Photo Gallery



 Former lab members


– Ester Castellsagué, Post-doctoral fellow (2012-2016)

Continuing her post-doctoral fellowship with Dr. Gabriel Capella at the Catalan Institute of Oncologie in Barcelona, Spain.

– Talia Boshari, research assistant (2014-2016)

Starting a MPH at Imperial College London, UK

– Leora Witkowski, B.Sc., PhD (2011-2016)

Starting a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr.Heidi Rehm, Harvard University.

Catherine Goudie (2015-2016)

Medical Resident at Sick Kids Hospital Toronto, ON.

– Jian Carrot-Zhang (2010-2016)

Post-doctoral fellow at the Broad Institute, Boston, MA.

-Ismael Bah (2015-2016)

Pathology Resident at the MUHC

– Heidi Rothenmund, research genetic counselor (2011-2015)

Now working for the Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg

– Andrew Shuen, genetics resident (2009-2014)

Starting a PhD at the department of molecular genetics at UofT

– Nassim Taherian, research genetic counselor (2009-2014)

Now working for Myriad Genetics in San Francisco

– Evan Weber, research assistant (2013-2014)

Now working as a genetic counselor at the MUHC

– Rachel Silva Cohen, research assistant (2012-2013)

Now working as a genetic counselor at U Miami

– Luca Cavallone, research associate (2011-2013)

Now a research associate at the LDI

– Sabrina Notte, administrative assistant (2005-2013)

Now at home with her two children.

– Archana Srivastava, research technician (2008-2013)

Now in the department of Pathology at the LDI

– Lili Li, Ph.D. graduate (2007-2013)

Now doing cardiogenetics research at UTHealth, Texas

– Amin Bahubeshi, M.Sc. graduate (2009-2011)

Now a medical student at UofT

– François Plourde, research genetic councelor (2009-2011)

Now working as a genetic counselor at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

– Virgina Manning, administrative assistant (2009-2011)

Now senior medical editor with Roche Pharmaceuticals in London, UK

– Emilie Lalonde, M.Sc. graduate (2009-2011)

Starting a Postdoctoral Researcher/Clinical Molecular Genetics Fellowship with Dr. Arupa Ganguly, UPenn

– Deidra Osher, Research Assistant (2008-2011)

Now a medical student at McGill

– Thomas Rio Frio, Post-doctoral fellow (2008-2010)

Now Next-Generation Sequencing platform manager at Genoma, Switzerland

– Martin Couillard, Post-doctoral fellow (2008-2010)

Now Patent Advisor at Brouillette & Associés

– David Novak, M.Sc. graduate (2007-2009)

Now Equity Research Analyst, Healthcare & Biotech at Clarus

– Ahmet Yilmaz, post-doctoral fellow (2006-2008)

Now in the Pathology Department, Ohio State University

– Tayma Khalil, M.Sc. graduate (2005-2007)

Now Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Company, Switzerland

– Ioli Makriyianni, M.Sc. graduate (2003-2005)

Now Project Manager, IPMO- Information Management and Technology at The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto.

– Kristi Baker, Ph.D. graduate (2003-2005)

Now Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton

– Susan McVety, M.Sc. graduate (2002-2005)

– Isabelle Thiffault, M.Sc. graduate (2002-2004)

Now is Assistant Director, Clinical Genome Center, Center for Pediatric Genomic Medicine, Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas City, Missouri