Our Team

Our Team

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

Principal Investigator

Principal Investigator

Dr. William Foulkes is a Distinguished James McGill Professor in the Departments of Medicine, Oncology, Human Genetics and Experimental Medicine 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 served as a Komen Scholar between 2010 and 2018. He is currently Chair of Human Genetics at McGill University and Chief of Medical Genetics at the McGill University Health Centre and the Jewish General Hospital.

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. He collaborates extensively with medical professionals and researchers around the world to better understand the genetics of various cancers. 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 since created the SCCOHT and SMARCA4 Registry and Biobank to collect data and biological material from affected persons worldwide to support research on this deadly disease, which is now a primary research topic of his lab. Since 2009, his team extensively defined the phenotypes linked to the DICER1 pleiotropic tumor predisposition syndrome and is now exploring the functional impact of inherited mutations in DICER1 at the microRNA level using tumor model systems. A final research focus involves genome-wide characterization of patients with multiple primary tumors to identify the genetic predisposing factors at work in these individuals.


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 activities at both research sites, handles lab finances, assists with grant applications, and oversees graduate research projects and various other research-related activities such as ethics and biobank management. She also still occasionally dons a lab coat to perform the odd experiment at the RIMUHC site.

Razia Chanda
Research Coordinator
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 coordinator.
José Camacho Valenzuela
PhD candidate

José earned a BSc in Biotechnology Engineering in Mexico and joined our research team as a doctoral trainee in the winter of 2020 after obtaining his master’s degree in Genomic Medicine in Manchester, England. His research project focuses on using mutational signatures to classify the pathogenic potential of genetic variants in breast cancer patients with the aim to improve their clinical management.

Fiona Chan Pak Choon
PhD candidate

Fiona came to us with a BSc in Agriculture and Environmental Sciences from McGill University with a specialization in microbiology and molecular biotechnology, and a strong interest in pursuing human genetics research. Her graduate research project aims to identify the genetic lesions involved in the development of multiple primary tumors in several severely affected individuals and their relatives.

Anne-Laure Chong
Research Assistant

Anne-Laure first joined our team as an undergraduate student while completing her BSc at McGill. She completed a research course with our lab and also worked as a summer student. She is now performing functional studies on DICER1 mutations as part of her graduate thesis.

Céline Domecq
Research Assistant

Céline holds graduate degrees in Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Biology and software engineering from France and from Université de Montréal. With over 10 years of experience working in academic research, she is skilled in multiple molecular biology techniques and is also responsible for day-to-day management and technical support of lab activities, fellows and students at the RIMUHC site. She also manages routine activities of our SCCOHT Registry Biobank.

Afrida Ahmed
Clinical Research Coordinator

Afrida joined our team in the summer of 2023 to replace several previous CRCs who left to pursue studies. She holds a MSc in Biochemistry from McGill University as well as BScs in Biochemistry and Psychology from the University of Alberta. She first approached us with an interest in performing more patient-oriented research after her years of lab-based studies and started as a volunteer doing patient data entry before joining the team officially. She now coordinates patient contact and recruitment for all our research studies.

Justin Axent-Saipovski
MSc candidate

Justin graduated with a BSc in Biology from McMaster University in Hamilton. He joined the lab in September 2022 with a long-term goal to study epigenetics in cancer. His research project focuses on engineering and optimizing cellular constructs to detect variations in microRNA expression caused by different DICER1 genetic variants. This microRNA sensor array will be an essential tool to determine if variants of unknown significance in DICER1 patients are benign or pathogenic.

Marie Loncol
MSc candidate

Marie holds a BSc in Biomedical Engineering from Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona and a BSc in human biology and mathematics from Maastricht University in The Netherlands. She came to Montreal in September 2022 to start a MSc at McGill with our lab. The goal of her project is to classify variants of unknown significance on SMARCA4 to determine their pathogenic potential to cause SCCOHT. Her project includes a bioinformatic component to classify variants based on clinical data and ACMG clinical criteria, and a lab-based component studying how mutant constructs impact cell growth in SCCOHT cells.

Lydia Ouchene
MSc candidate

Lydia obtained her MD at McGill University and is a dermatology resident at McGill affiliated hospitals. She is currently completing a MSc with our research group in the context of a new program to complement to her post-graduate medical education. Her project focuses on identifying and characterising the frequency and penetrance of French-Canadian founder mutations predisposing to Hereditary Leiomyomatosis and Renal Cell Carcinoma (HLRCC), previously referred to as Reed syndrome, in Montreal patient populations.

Photo Gallery

 Former lab members

Zoulikha Rezoug, Genetic Counsellor & Clinical Research Coordinator (2017-2023)
Now Lecturer of Biomedical Sciences at Qatar University, Qatar

Nelly Sabbaghian, Research Technician (2011-2023)
Now a Research Assistant at the Lady Davis Institute, Montreal

Melissa Tachjdian, Clinical Research Coordinator (2021-2023)
Now a Clinical Research Coordinator at the RIMUHC, Montreal

Dylan Pelletier, MSc candidate (2021-2023)
Now a Medical Student at University of Montreal

Victoria Carile, Clinical Research Coordinator (2021-2023)
Now a Genetic Counselling MSc student at McGill University, Montreal

Brianna Lemieux Anglin, Clinical Research Coordinator (2022-2023)
Now a Genetic Counselling MSc student at University of Montreal

Sophie Albert, Clinical Research Coordinator (2021-2022)
Now a Genetic Counselling MSc student at University of British Columbia

HyeRim Han, PhD candidate & stagiaire (2022)
Now completing a graduate research degree in biotechnology at Columbia University, USA

Anne-Sophie Chong, MSc candidate (2019-2021)
Now a PhD student at University of Barcelona, Spain

Kristen Mohler, Clinical Research Coordinator (2020-2021)
Now a genetic Counsellor at CHUM, Montreal

Javad Nadaf, Bioinformatician (2017-2020)
Now Bioinformatics Manager at McGill University, Montreal

Leila Feng, Research Apprentice (2018-2020)
Now a Genetic Counsellor at CHEO, Ottawa

Maria Apellaniz, Postdoctoral Fellow (2017-2019)
Now Biomedical Researcher at the Biomedical Research Center of Navarre (Navarrobiomed), Pamplona, Spain

Supriya Behl, MSc graduate (2017-2019)
Now Clinical Research Coordinator at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

HyeRim Han, Research Assistant (2017-2019)
Now a graduate student at University of Barcelona, Spain

Dominique Geoffrion, MSc candidate (2017-2018)
Now a MD-PhD student at McGill University

Leanne de Kock, PhD Graduate (2013-2018)
Now a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, ON, Canada

Mona Wu, PhD Graduate (2013-2018)
Now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern California, LA, USA

Marcos Clavier,  Data Manager (2016-2018)
Now a Digital Marketing Specialist at resulta

Cameron Levins, MSc Graduate (2016-2018)
Now a medical student at McGill University, Montreal.

Barbara Rivera, Postdoctoral Fellow (2013-2018)
Now Junior Leader Faculty at the Bellvitge Institute for Biomedical Research (IDIBELL), Barcelona, Spain & Adjunct Professor at McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Ester Castellsagué, Postdoctoral Fellow (2012-2016)
Now Diagnostic Scientific Liaison at AstraZeneca, Barcelona, Spain

Talia Boshari, Research Coordinator (2014-2016)
Now a Public Health Specialty Registrar at The Health Foundation, London, England

Leora Witkowski, PhD Graduate (2011-2016)
Now Clinical Specialist in Medical Biology, Laboratory in Molecular Pathology, MUHC, Montreal

Catherine Goudie, Genetics Resident (2015-2016)
Now a Clinician in the Hematology Pediatric dept at MUHC and a Junior Scientist at the RIMUHC, Canada.

Jian Carrot-Zhang PhD Graduate (2010-2016)
Now Assistant Professor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, MA, USA

Ismael Bah, Genetics Resident (2015-2016)
Now Staff Pathologist at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire du Québec, Laval University, Hôtel Dieu de Québec, Canada

Heidi Rothenmund, Research Genetic Counselor (2011-2015)
Now working for the Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg, Canada

Andrew Shuen, Genetics Resident (2009-2014)
Now a Medical Geneticist in Toronto, Canada

Nassim Taherian, Research Genetic Counselor (2009-2014)
Now a Clinical Oncology Specialist at Guardant Health, San Francisco, California

Evan Weber, Research Assistant (2013-2014)
Now working as a Genetic Counselor at the MUHC in Montreal, Canada

Rachel Silva-Smith, Research Assistant (2012-2013)
Now working as a Genetic Counselor at U Miami, US

Luca Cavallone, Research Associate (2011-2013)
Now a Research Associate at McGill University, Montreal, Canada

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 in Montreal, Canada

Lili Li, PhD Graduate (2007-2013)
Now a Postdoctoral Fellow at Houston Methodist Research Institute, Weil Cornell Medicine, Houston, US

Amin Bahubeshi, MSc Graduate (2009-2011)
Now Resident Physician in Dermatology at University of Ottawa

François Plourde, Research Genetic Counselor (2009-2011)
Now working as a Genetic Counselor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada

Virginia Manning, Administrative Assistant (2009-2011)
Now a Senior Medical Editor with Roche Pharmaceuticals in London, UK

Emilie Lalonde, MSc Graduate (2009-2011)
Now Assistant Technical Director at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Deidra Osher, Research Assistant (2008-2011)
Now a Family Doctor in Ville St-Laurent, Quebec, Canada

Thomas Rio Frio, Postdoctoral Fellow (2008-2010)
Now Biologist in the Department of Medical Genetics at Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève, Switzerland

Martin Couillard, Postdoctoral Fellow (2008-2010)
Now an Advisor in Research and Knowledge transfer at HEC Montreal, Canada

David Novak, MSc Graduate (2007-2009)
Now Managing Director, Equity Research Analyst at Raymond James, Toronto, Canada

Ahmet Yilmaz, Postdoctoral Fellow (2006-2008)
Now in the Pathology Department at Ohio State University, US

Tayma Khalil, MSc Graduate (2005-2007)
Now Senior Director, Strategy, Expedia Group, Geneva

Ioli Makriyianni, MSc Graduate (2003-2005)
Now Senior Associate, Optimus Management Consultants, Toronto