Back to Stories

Grant Recipient Driven to Prevent Hearing Loss for Cancer Patients

February 3, 2022

Dr. Drögemöller’s pilot study aims to use genetic information to predict who is going to experience hearing loss during chemotherapy.

Hearing “you have cancer” is a life-altering experience—but it is only the beginning. When undergoing treatment, patients are often faced with a litany of side effects, some of which are debilitating. Grant recipient and geneticist, Dr. Britt Drögemöller, is exploring why certain people experience hearing loss because of chemotherapy, whether their genes play a role in this devastating additional diagnosis, and what can be done to combat this adverse effect.

“Advances in cancer treatments over the last few decades have really improved survival rates for some cancers. One of the shortcomings now is that a lot of these cancer treatments have very toxic effects—a lot of them affect the nervous system. Specifically, what I’m looking at is hearing loss that is caused by a specific cancer treatment called cisplatin,” says Dr. Drögemöller.

Dr. Drögemöller’s pilot study—“Harnessing genomic data to guide the development of personalized treatments to prevent the neurotoxic effects of chemotherapy”—aims to use genetic information to predict who is going to experience hearing loss and then use this information to try to guide the identification of additional treatments that can be used in combination with cancer therapies to reduce this adverse reaction.

“We know that genetics plays a very important role in why some people experience hearing loss when they get this treatment, but we don’t really know what genetic variants are contributing to this, so it is hard to predict and prevent,” says Dr. Drögemöller.

Dr. Drögemöller graduated with her PhD from Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 2013, completed her post-doctoral fellowship at the University of British Columbia in 2020, and then moved to Winnipeg in April 2020 where she currently works as an Assistant Professor at the University of Manitoba in the Department of Biochemistry & Medical Genetics.

“I would sincerely like to thank the HSC Foundation donors for providing these opportunities. Especially as an early career researcher, this is coming at a very important stage in my lab. This funding will help to get me started so that I can continue to do research, which will hopefully have a meaningful impact on patients’ lives,” says Dr. Drögemöller.

When possible, Dr. Drögemöller spends as much time as she can hiking, camping, and fishing with her husband Dr. Galen Wright, another HSC Foundation General Operating Grants recipient.

Congratulations to Dr. Drögemöller and her fellow 2021 grant recipients. To learn more about this year’s grant recipients, please visit our our grants page. To help our researchers raise the bar in health care excellence, please donate to our Innovation HSC annual campaign by clicking here or calling the Foundation at 204-515-5612.