Torsten Nielsen

TorstenNielsen   I am a clinician-scientist in the UBC Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and an affiliated member of the Department of Orthopaedics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, holding the academic rank of full professor. I am based at Vancouver General Hospital and at BC Cancer, working out of the Division of Anatomical Pathology and our Genetic Pathology Evaluation Centre.

  In 2018 I become the Director of UBC's combined MD/PhD program<UBC MD/PhD logo>, where I am responsible for policy development, recruitment efforts and for mentoring our group of stellar students. I contribute to the correlative sciences planning around cancer clinical trials for the Canadian Cancer Trials Group as co-chair of the breast correlative science and the sarcoma disease site committees.

  25% of my time is devoted to clinical work: musculoskeletal pathology including diagnosis of connective tissue neoplasms in the province of British Columbia, weekly sarcoma treatment planning conferences, and teaching residents and medical students at UBC. The balance of my time is devoted to translational research into how molecular changes in cancer cells impact upon diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment response, and in developing new and clinically-practical molecular diagnostics and targeted therapies for human cancer (with a focus on breast cancer and sarcomas).

  My active research encompasses two major areas. As director of the GPEC Genetic Pathology Evaluation Centre at Vancouver Hospital (working with my close colleagues David Huntsman and Blake Gilks) I lead several active tissue microarray and cancer genome profiling projects. A common theme of my work is to make clinical sense out of results from breast cancer and sarcoma basic science investigations, and their translation into diagnostic and predictive tests. As an independent principal investigator, I direct my lab (here are pictures of my research team) in a research program to develop much-needed systemic treatments for sarcomas, particularly synovial sarcoma (a cancer most commonly occurring in the limbs of young adults), and to develop practical clinical tests for the intrinsic subtyping of breast cancer. We also have active immuno-oncology biomarker assessment projects for breast cancer and sarcomas.

I have external grant support from the Canadian Cancer SocietyCCS logo, the Terry Fox Research Instituteterry fox foundation, the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma InitiativeLSSI logo, the Breast Cancer Research Foundationdata:image/png;base64,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 and the U.S. National Institutes of Health<NIH logo>.

In breast cancer research, I have an active collaboration with Chuck Perou of UNC-Chapel Hill, Matthew Ellis of the Baylor College of Medicine, and Phil Bernard of the University of Utah, working to translate breast cancer expression profiles into clinical tests using NanoString technology. Indeed, a decade of dedicated work in this area has resulted in the licensing and regulatory approval of the Prosigna test based on our PAM50 signature. On behalf of the North American Breast Cancer Group and the Breast International Group, I am coordinating a study into the analytical reproducibility of Ki67 as a proliferation biomarker in breast cancer. I also direct an international team studying synovial sarcoma, with my work dissecting the molecular biology of several other sarcomas being done in collaboration with Michael Underhill at the UBC Biomedical Research Centre and with Poul Sorensen at the BCCA Cancer Research Centre. My other close collaborators on active grants include breast cancer oncologist Stephen Chia, epigenomics expert Martin Hirst, and sarcoma surgeon-scientist Kevin Jones. At UBC, I am part of the Translational Cancer Genomics Cluster, a group of the most active cancer researchers in British Columbia. Here is my publications list.

A Short Biography

I was born and raised in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I went to Handsworth Secondary School, then got my B.Sc. from the Department of Biochemistry at UBC in 1991. My wife Karen Nordquist, whom I married in 1992, has a Master of Arts degree in Sociology from McGill; here are some pictures of my family. Our first daughter, Lindsay Anne Nielsen, was born August 18, 2000, and we were soon thereafter blessed with a second daughter, Nicole Maya Nielsen, born June 30, 2003. We live in quite a nice house in North Vancouver.
In 1997, after six years of work, I completed the MD/PhD program at McGill McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. My Ph.D. thesis, "Human Origins of DNA Replication: identification, analysis and application," was completed at the McGill Cancer Centre, under the supervision of Gerald B. Price in the Division of Experimental Medicine. While at McGill, I also studied and published articles on the ethics of germline genetic manipulations and euthanasia. My residency training began in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, with a rotating internship year, where I spent many nights on call at the Victoria General and Royal Jubilee hospitals -- sometimes even running the cardiac arrest team!

During my residency in the Pathology program at UBC, I was able to undertake extra research training in London (laser capture microdissection in the laboratory of Dr. Nick Lemoine), Stanford (microarrays, with Matt van de Rijn and Rob West) and Seattle (immunohistochemistry, with Allen Gown of PhenoPath laboratories). In late 2001, David Huntsman, Blake Gilks and I founded the Genetic Pathology Evaluation Centre and we have remained close collaborators ever since. In 2002, I passed my exam and obtained a fellowship in Anatomic Pathology from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and I obtained subspecialty training in soft tissue pathology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and in bone pathology at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham, England. I started my full time faculty position at UBC in January 2003, and was promoted to tenured Associate Professor in 2007 and to full Professor in 2012. I became director of the UBC MD/PhD program in July 2018.

Citations and abbreviated abstracts from my work in all these fields are available in my publications list.

Hobbies & Interests

Overworked city-people with an environmental ethic often end up vacc Urban Cyclists!

I have an active interest in peace and environmental issues; in fact, that's how Karen & I met!

Here are links to some organizations I support: physicians for global survival Physicians for Global Survival, medecins
                sans frontieres Medecins Sans Frontieres, and the Canucks Autism
              Network Canucks Autism Network.

Escaping to nature was always easy, growing up in Vancouver, a city with many great places to go hiking.


Contact Information:
Torsten O. Nielsen, MD/PhD FRCPC
Anatomical Pathology, JPN 1401
Vancouver Hospital & Health Sciences Centre
855 W. 12th Ave, Vancouver B.C. V5Z 1M9
tel: 604.875.4111  x66768 (clinical) or x62649 (research)
fax: 604.875.5707 (attn: T. Nielsen)   
email address: torsten[nospam]
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Last modified 2019 . 1 . 08