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The Garron Family Cancer Centre

Education & Training

Training Programs

The Garron Family Cancer Centre (GFCC) offers a unique fellowship opportunity for clinical fellows looking to enhance their experience in cancer research. The GFCC as part of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is one of Canada's top ranked Paediatric Oncology Centres in Canada. This fellowship opportunity aims to provide training through direct participation in basic science or clinical investigation under the supervision of world leaders in oncology research and clinical care. The goal is to promote career development in the clinician investigator and clinician scientist tracks. The GFCC awards up to two 2-year fellowships per review cycle.

Fellowship requirements

  • Research undertaken must be cancer related.
  • Fellows are required to participate in GFCC research seminars related to their research interests and as their schedules allow from the outset of their fellowship. 
  • As part of the fellowship, fellows are required to commit up to 10% of their time per year to clinical activities.
  • This is a 2-year fellowship starting July 1.

Fellowship Oversight Committee

A formal Fellowship Oversight Committee (FOC) is to be established to mentor and guide the fellow in the first year. The FOC is composed of at least 3 individuals including fellowship supervisor, a mentor for the fellow’s clinical and general career development, and a mentor with expertise in research that is being pursued by the fellow. There may be additional mentors who are also members of the FOC.

Fellowship eligibility

  • Clinical Fellows who have completed or will have completed at time of start of fellowship their core clinical training in Paediatric Haematology/Oncology.
  • Applicants can apply in the year prior to the planned research activities.
  • A supervisor and primary project must be identified at time of application. 
  • The research fellowship is intended to start July 1 of the following year of application submission; off cycle start dates may be considered.  

Supervisor eligibility

  • The supervisor does not have to be a SickKids Clinician Scientist but should have a University of Toronto appointment.
  • If the supervisor is external to SickKids, the Fellowship Oversight Committee must include at least one SickKids Clinician Scientist who works in the area of fellow’s research project.

Supervisor contribution

Effective July 1, 2024, for fellows starting their first year of the GFCC Fellowship, supervisors are required to contribute $22,000 toward fellow salary. Please note if the fellow successfully receives external funding this will offset the supervisor contribution.


$84,534.35 per year plus modified benefits for the term of the fellowship.

Application requirements

  1. Current CV
  2. Two appropriate professional letters of reference in addition to supervisor letter of support. One must be from previous supervisor and/or colleague who can speak to experience in research and/or scholarly work from the past 3 years.
  3. GFCC Fellowship Trainee Application
  4. GFCC Fellowship Supervisor Application

Deadline for applications

For a fellowship start date of July 1, 2024, please submit applications by 11:59 p.m. on September 26, 2023.

Fellowship deferral

The GFCC fellowship can be deferred up to a maximum of 1 year. A written letter advising of deferral is required and must include signature from fellow and supervisor. 


For inquiries about the GFCC fellowship, please contact

Fellowship Overview  

Please note: this fellowship opportunity is now closed, we anticipate accepting applications again for July 1, 2025 start. Please check back in mid-2024 for further updates on when applications will be accepted again. 

As an innovator in paediatric oncology, the Garron Family Cancer Centre (GFCC) is looking to develop future leaders in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). The field of AI/ML utilizes algorithms and software to develop complex models to better employ data to support care and develop innovative solutions and is a growing field in healthcare.  

The GFCC AI Fellowship will focus on the use of AI/ML to inform patient and systems-based practices for best care of paediatric oncology patients and will span prioritization of clinical questions and scenarios, model development and deployment, and implementation. The successful candidate must have an interest in working with large datasets, statistics, quality improvement and implementation science.  


  • Fellowship is open to clinical applicants who:
    • Have completed a clinical fellowship in paediatric haematology/oncology
  • Prior coding experience is an asset but not required. Applicants must have a willingness to learn coding and take part in AI or ML courses to build and apply coding skills throughout the fellowship.


  • Fellowship Academic Year: July 1 start
  • Submission Deadline: Mid-October
  • Selection Committee Review: Early November
  • Program Acceptance: An email notification will be forwarded to your email address in November.

Fellowship Requirements

  • Applicant must source two supervisors:
    • Clinical Supervisor: from the oncology practice area to support content expertise.
    • Technical Supervisor: whose lab or research area includes AI and ML. Technical Supervisor can be external to SickKids if proven leader in the AI/ML field.  
  • Applicants are not required to have a project or model to develop at beginning of fellowship.
  • Expectation that up to 10% of time is spent in clinical work in keeping with the professional role of the fellow.
  • Introductory courses in AI and ML are requirements of fellowship and encouraged to be completed in first 3 months of fellowship, suggested courses include:
  • Introduction to Machine Learning
  • AI in Healthcare Specialization


  • Two year fellowship
  • Academic year July 1 – June 30


  • PGY5 Salary 
  • Laptop will be provided

Application Requirements

  • AI Fellowship Application
  • Clinical Supervisor Application
  • Technical Supervisor Application
  • Two reference letters (not from supervisors) submitted to

Fellowship Oversight Committee (FOC)

  • Fellows are required to establish a formal FOC that will include supervisors, one to two mentors in ML/AI and one to two members from lab who collaborate on project.
  • The goal of the FOC is to initially help the fellow establish learning goals thereby setting up a mentorship plan to support skill development in AL/ML.
  • The FOC is required to meet bimonthly in the first year of the fellowship and quarterly in the second year.

Progress Report

  • Fellow will be required to submit a progress report by December 1 and June 1 of each fellowship year.
  • Coding knowledge will be evaluated as part of the progress report at the conclusion of first year of fellowship.

Fellowship Expectations

At the end of the fellowship, it is expected that fellows will be able to identify relevant practice questions, understand data resources and work with AI/ML experts in developing and refining models, analyze results and translate to clinical practice.

Learn more about the Core Paediatric General Haematology/Oncology fellowship  from the Division of Haematology/Oncology.

Learn more about the Departmental Paediatric Haematology/Oncology fellowship from the Division of Haematology/Oncology.

The Division of Hematology/Oncology Clinical and GFCC Research Fellowship is a four-year combined fellowship opportunity for physicians. The GFCC Research Fellowship component begins after the completion of two years of clinical training.


Physician trainees awarded a two-year clinical fellowship by the Division of Haematology/Oncology.

Application Requirements

  1. Division of Haematology/Oncology Fellowship Application 
  2. Current CV
  3. Two professional letters of reference
  4. GFCC Fellowship Trainee Application
  5. GFCC Fellowship Supervisor Application 
  6. One supervisor letter of support


  • Fellowship Academic Year start: July 1, 2023
  • Submission Deadline: September 30, 2022 11:59 p.m.
  • Selection Committee Review: October
  • Program Acceptance: An email notification will be forwarded to your email address between October and November.

Learn more about the Basic Science/Investigator Fellowship offered through the SickKids Research Institute Research Training Centre (RTC).

2023/24 GFCC Research Fellows

Dr. Adi Nitzan-Luques

Supervisor: Meredith Irwin

Translational in vivo modeling to identify therapeutic opportunities for high-risk neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma (NB) is a cancer of the peripheral nervous system and the most common pediatric solid tumor outside the brain. This malignancy is heterogeneous in nature with respect to underlying gene alterations as well as associated clinical outcomes. Although >90% of those with low- risk localized NB survive, patients with high-risk disease have survival rates of <50% due most commonly to recurrent or difficult to treat metastatic diseases.

The mechanisms that explain how NB develops, progresses and becomes resistant to treatment are poorly understood, which makes discovery of new drugs challenging. One major limitation has been a lack of animal models for NB that get tumors that look like those we see in our patients with high-risk. My project aims to develop new, patient-specific, NB models based on gene alterations identified in tumors from patients with relapsed NB.

MYCN amplification, ATRX loss-of-function and TERT alterations are some of the gene alterations found in tumors from NB patients. Zebrafish are increasingly used to study human cancers and have several advantages over using mice. Our lab previously made Zebrafish that had high levels of MYCN together with mutations we identified in our patients in genes within DNA damage repair (DDR) pathways. I aim to develop additional zebrafish NB models where I will modify ATRX or TERT (similar to what happens in our patients) and test personalized drug combinations, including new agents targeting DDR. This approach aims to identify personalized drug sensitivities according to underlying gene mutations and provides important evidence for novel targeted therapy combinations for high-risk NB patients.

Dr. Amy Lu

Dr. Amy Lu

Supervisor: Dr. Lillian Sung

Describing Non-English Language Preference (NELP) in Paediatric Oncology 

Language barriers between patients/families and their healthcare teams can have negative effects on different parts of the healthcare experience. In areas where English is the primary working language, language barriers are often studied under the term “non-English language preference” (NELP). When patients/families have NELP, this can negatively affect important aspects of healthcare such as communication with healthcare teams and satisfaction with care, and can lead to health disparities compared to families without NELP. Communication with healthcare teams is especially important in paediatric oncology, and yet we do not understand NELP very well in this population. 

Our project aims to determine how common NELP is among guardians of paediatric cancer patients, and explore how NELP affects guardians’ healthcare experiences. Firstly, we will determine how common NELP is by interviewing guardians. We will also compare different ways to identify if a guardian has NELP by comparing interview answers with fields in the electronic medical record on language preference, as well as with the results of chart review (when research teams review documents in a patient’s chart). Secondly, we will compare perceptions around communication with healthcare teams and satisfaction with healthcare provided between guardians with and without NELP. Finally, for guardians with NELP, we will describe how often different types of interpreters are used (e.g. professional versus informal) and with what modalities (e.g. in person versus phone/videoconference), and what guardians’ preferences are in terms of these differences. This project will provide important information for us to understand NELP and its impact in paediatric oncology, and will help us develop further research and interventions to minimize the negative impact of NELP on paediatric oncology care. 

Image of Inci Yaman

Dr. Inci Yaman

Supervisor: Dr. Eric Bouffet

Visual Rehabilitation for Children and Adolescents with Visual Field Deficits

A number of children with supratentorial tumours suffer from visual field deficits that affect their daily activities. Homonymous hemianopia (HH) develops after a chiasmatic or post-chiasmatic injury. It is the most frequent cortical visual impairment leading to a loss of conscious vision in the contra-lesional hemifield of both eyes. Several studies demonstrated that hemianopia patients could improve visual perception in the damaged hemifield when auditory and visual stimuli originated from the same spatial position at the same time. Modern low-vision rehabilitation procedures for low-vision patients include biofeedback training to acquire better fixation skills. We hypothesize that 3D multiple object-tracking visual task (3D-MOT) audio-visual rehabilitation program using a virtual-reality device can be performed at home by hemianopia patients to improve their visual perception. To test this hypothesis, we will investigate the compliance with the Neurofy Research and Rehabilitation protocol and its effectiveness on visual perception in hemianopia patients. This project is intended to test the potential effectiveness of a visual rehabilitation protocol consisting of multiple series of audio-visual tasks performed in a virtual-reality environment. For the convenience of the patients and to limit commuting and visits to the hospital, the training regimen will be performed at home using the mobile and connected virtual-reality device Oculus Go, allowing the control of the rehabilitation protocol and data transfer in real-time through Wi-Fi connectivity. This pilot study may provide preliminary data for a subsequent randomized trial in a larger population of patients in Canada and/or internationally with an optimized rehabilitation protocol.

Dr. Ncedile Mankahla 

Supervisor: Dr. Michael Taylor

Investigating the role of myeloid and tissue resident macrophages in medulloblastoma metastases

Existing data shows that unlike adult brain tumors and non-brain solid tumors, there are relatively few immune cells infiltrating childhood brain tumors, even the malignant types.
The most abundant cells observed are macrophages. Effector T-cells which are the main cell type that can kill tumors are relatively excluded. My objective is to use genetically engineered mouse models of medulloblastoma, which form tumors that resemble human medulloblastoma in an immune competent mouse, to investigate the relationship between macrophages and the tumor environment. The aim is to investigate macrophage communication with the environment to understand their role in T-cell exclusion and discover the biological roles played by tissue resident and infiltrating macrophages in medulloblastoma metastasis. We use single cell RNA sequencing to explore the gene signatures that determine functional programming of macrophages. The goal is to discover pharmacologically targetable biological pathways that can help reprogram macrophages to aid in tumor elimination instead of impeding it. Current knowledge has also highlighted important differences in macrophage cell-types in the brain and the differing roles that each cell type plays in cancer progression. Any meaningful targeting of macrophages will need to account for these specialized cell types for improved specificity and reduced toxicity of treatment. The first part of my project has been the use of our single cell sequencing data to match macrophage gene expression signatures with public reference atlases to identify the specialized cell types so that they can be specifically investigated for their biological roles in cancer. The second stage will be identification and testing of specific biological pathways that will help reprogram these cell types for anti-tumor activity.

Photo of Dr. Nikhil Raghuram

Dr. Nikhil Raghuram

Supervisor: Dr. Annie Huang

Targeting EZH2 in EBTs: Role of epigenetic modifiers in modulating pluripotency

Among cancers that afflict children, brain cancers are the second most common type of cancers, however, cause the most deaths and disability. The Huang lab has been studying pediatric malignant brain tumors called ETMRs and ATRTs. These tumors arise in infants and children less than 3 years of age, and approximately 70% of the patients die within 2-years following diagnosis, highlighting the aggressive nature of the tumors and lack of effective treatment strategies.

Our preliminary studies indicate that both ETMRs and ATRTs over-express a protein called EZH2, which in other cancers has been shown to drive cancer growth. To further investigate the role of EZH2, tumor cells will be genetically engineered to reduce their expression of EZH2 allowing us to understand the effects of this reduction on cancer growth. We will also use novel drugs, Tazemetostat and DZnep, that have been shown to reduce the activity of EZH2. We will use sophisticated sequencing analysis to understand how reduction in EZH2 levels impacts DNA and the biological processes that depend upon DNA (such as transcription, and DNA damage pathways). We will investigate whether using a combination of EZH2 inhibitors with conventional chemotherapy is more effective in ETMR and ATRT cells.

In summary, our research aims to investigate the role of EZH2 in pediatric brain tumors and understand the biochemical mechanisms that drive these tumors. This will help us in better identifying vulnerabilities that can be targeted by chemotherapy.

Patient and family resources

AboutKidsHealth Educational Resources

AboutKidsHealth is a health education website for children, youth and their caregivers. 

Photovoice Program

As leaders in child health, the oncology social workers at SickKids have implemented a therapeutic Photovoice group where teens meet weekly to record, reflect, and critique issues they have faced on their treatment journey.

Photovoice is a therapeutic photography program focused on creating a supportive peer-focused environment aimed at bringing a voice to teens with varying cancer diagnoses, while facilitating better communication between patients and their healthcare teams. A concurrent Photovoice group for teen siblings is also available. Photos from both groups are displayed at the annual Exhibition to kick off Cancer Awareness Week and are subsequently hung on clinic walls.


Veruca: Photo voice is a chance to, well, really give your photos a voice.

[Text on screen: Photovoice – Through the Eyes of Teens with Cancer]

[Music and camera lens shutters]

Bella: A captured image can mean a whole lot more than just one thing

Thea: Well it takes something that you can't really say in words so you can show to other people how you felt using a photo.

Brooke: In pictures you can really see what's happening.

Owen: The photography helped me express my feelings.

Sarah: Why they took that photo kind of like showcases their story in a way.

Noor: Cancer is a really tough experience to go through and sometimes you can't explain it through words.


Maryam: So we got to pick these themes and take photos of whatever we thought fit into that theme, or maybe didn't fit into that theme, but we thought related to it, and then present them to the group and just talk. It was a really nice moment just to discuss other parts of what we're going through.


Noor: Me and my mom would go on car rides together after I do chemotherapy. It kind of relaxes me and reminds me that I can still live a normal life even though I’m doing chemotherapy and I can still enjoy little things.

Sarah: I think the one that resonated with me the most is Strength and Weaknesses. Everybody like in their cancer journey had strengths and weaknesses. That photo [Referencing a photo of herself lying in bed with a face mask on] I felt the weakest, but everybody around me thought that I was the strongest. We all have this mask that we need to put on especially in front of our family. I don't want to show my family what I’m going through because they're already upset so it's better that I put this mask on and kind of like deal with it my own way or like cope with it in my own way.

Thea: I mean some pictures have a story behind it. [Referencing a photo of herself, without hair, lying in bed without a wig on] Like I didn't get out of bed that day and normally I put on makeup or my wig and that day I just couldn't do it and I felt like this out of body experience and I just didn't recognize me at all. I was like small and sick you know. A couple months later when I had hair and I was more me and I realized like the parallels of that as I was getting up and I’m like this is perfect so I took a picture. [Referencing a photo of herself with short hair, lying in bed smiling] Life after cancer is like living with the knowledge of knowing how a body can decay so that's how I felt in the first picture and then the second one I sort of came out from that.

Veruca: One of the themes that really resonated with me was Personality. You always know your personality, you know who you are. It's the one thing that no one can take from you. That something as crazy as cancer couldn't take from you. I enjoy listening to music and that helped me through treatment because it was just like a way to like escape. [Referencing a photo of a pair of earphones, held up infront of a hospital room curtain] You don't always have to pay attention to what's going on around you, whether you're in a hospital setting or not. Well I’m definitely grateful for the group. When I look back at some of the photos that I’ve taken I can see how far I’ve come.

Bella: You don't just learn about people's cancer diagnosis or the stuff that they've gone through, you understand like a part of their personality. We all had a different point of view, but we all went through the same thing. We lost our hair, we went through chemotherapy, we were constantly being poked. Well it represents coping to me because for me a big struggle through my whole cancer diagnosis was losing my hair. Well I feel like if you feel good and you feel confident in yourself it's a lot easier and when you feel good you look good and I feel like that just feeling comfortable myself with my wig on was really me coping.

Owen: The themes helped us narrow down what we wanted to do. "A New Normal" that that helped us explain of what we were and what we’re becoming, or what we're going to be. I was out late one night, I think it was around like midnight or whatever with my friends and we were out doing stupid stuff. I thought I was invincible. I just got into grade nine, I was sent down here and I had a highly aggressive stage four glioblastoma. My first stage of chemo didn't work but my second battle is working really well.

I wasn't such a nice person before being in the hospital. I was sad, I was depressed. And right now the new normal is I want to help as many people as I can. I talk to everybody, I’m absolutely radiant person, I love life. I don't care that I’m on a chemo drug or anything. I look past that. You have to, to survive. And it's a new normal.

Maryam: So the theme of strength and weaknesses resonated for me specifically, in that throughout what you go through, a cancer journey treatment and all the parts of it, I feel like a lot of people when they picture it can only think of the sadness or the weaknesses in a way. But there are a lot of strengths. And you come out of it and you gain a lot. You gain strength and you gain a new look on life. I think that I’m strong because of what I’ve gone through. So that photo [Referencing a photo of various colourful polaroid images and flowers on a table] I used polaroids of a trip I took with classmates to Nepal. It was a time in my life when I felt physically strong, out of treatment and in those photos or snapshots with me and my friends, and these beautiful moments on this trip, and it's moments that give me strength and motivation because these beautiful moments in life really exist. And it gave me strength to think back like, this can happen again. That this moment of beauty and this happiness that I experienced during that trip, it can happen again.

Brooke: Well I think how you make a photo special is if it really means something to you. That picture [Referencing a photo of herself sitting on a bench, reading by the water] describes coping because whenever i wanted to cope or something to do just get my mind off cancer, I would read my bible and that would help me cope and just sit by the lake and it was just a good coping strategy for me. Sharing this photo was empowering because I got to see how people react and that photos really do explain who you are as a person. I usually don't like opening up, especially not about personal things such as my cancer journey, so when I was doing Photovoice it really gave me the opportunity to share my experience. And it's just good to get it off your chest because it's a part of you and you can't leave it behind.

Noor: Cancer shouldn't be kept a secret it's something to show what I’ve done what I’m going through.

Thea: It made me feel like I could finally get things off my chest to a group of people who understood.

Veruca: Having that environment where we could interact and share pieces of our lives through photos really helped me feel like I wasn't alone in what I was going through.

Bella: After all this like whole experience I think I definitely look at photos a different way.

Owen: When I think of photography I think of myself as a whole and everything that's happened to me.

Maryam: It’s uplifting to think about Photovoice. It's a support group tied up with the ability to express your creativity.

Sarah: It's pretty healing.

[Music and camera lens shutters]

[Text on screen: Photovoice – Through the Eyes of Teens with Cancer]

'It's All About Me' Sibling Appreciation Day

A child’s diagnosis of cancer or serious blood disorder has a significant impact on the entire family. Siblings of children with cancer/serious blood disorders are often overlooked and their needs minimized as their parents and healthcare professionals focus on the ill child. The Annual “It’s All About Me” Sibling Appreciation Day provides creative opportunities to address the most common concerns about the sibling experience.  

It promotes the expression of feelings, coping, and problem solving with the goal of enhancing self-esteem. Throughout our programming, we aim to enhance sibling’s adjustment to living with a life-threatening illness within the family, reinforce their importance within the family, and provide much needed recognition for their important role in their family’s journey at SickKids.  

For more information about these initiaitves, email or

Contact the GFCC

Contact the GFCC

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