I am a clinician-scientist
in the Department of Pathology
and Laboratory Medicine and an affiliated member of the
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, where I am responsible for policy, recruitment and 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 Genetic Pathology Evaluation
Centre at Vancouver Hospital (working with my close
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.
have external grant support from the Canadian Cancer Society,
the Terry Fox Research Institute, the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma
Initiative, the Breast Cancer Research
Foundation and the U.S. National Institutes of
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.
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
In 1997, after six years of work, I completed the MD/PhD program at 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.
city-people with an environmental ethic often end up Urban
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, Medecins Sans Frontieres, and the Canucks Autism Network.
Escaping to nature was always easy, growing up in Vancouver, a city with many great places to go hiking.
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]@mail.ubc.ca
(remove [nospam] to reply)
Last modified 2018 . 9 .