Joel Pearson, PhD

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Joel Pearson, PhD

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Research Discipline(s): Fundemental, Translational

Primary Title: Scientist

Additional Titles & Affiliations: Assistant Professor, Dept of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University of Manitoba; Investigator, Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba


Lung Cancer, Neuroendocrine Cancers, Prostate Cancer, Brain Cancers, Pan-Cancer Analysis, Cancer Genomics, CRISPR Screening

I just love to do really cool, exciting science.

Research Summary

Cancer is a complex disease, and this complexity hinders successful diagnosis and treatment. A critical aspect of improving patient outcome is to find ways to overcome this. Identifying overarching principles of cancer biology that span tumor type will allow us to overcome cancer complexity and develop broadly relevant therapeutics. For example, we found that cancers can be simplified into just two types (termed “YAP-on” or “YAP-off”) based on distinct activities of the YAP/TAZ-TEAD transcriptional complex. Importantly, these classes exhibit distinct therapeutic vulnerabilities. However, cancers exploit this and can actually switch classes as a mechanism of drug resistance. One goal of our lab is to understand the molecular basis of these fundamental “rules” that govern tumor behavior. By better understanding these rules, we hope to exploit them to pinpoint better cancer treatments.

Another major area of research in our lab focuses on small cell neuroendocrine cancers, such as small cell lung cancer and drug-resistant neuroendocrine prostate cancer. These are YAP-off cancers that exhibit extremely poor outcome and have limited treatment options. We are interested in understanding the genesis and evolution of these cancers with the goal of identifying novel therapies to better treat these highly lethal cancers.


My research program aims to better understand how overarching principles of cancer biology govern tumor behavior. Through this approach we hope to find ways to overcome the complexity of this disease and identify broadly relevant cancer therapies. To address this, we apply state-of-the-art genomic, single cell and CRISPR screening approaches across a variety of in vivo and in vitro cancer models.

Research Biography

Dr. Joel Pearson completed his PhD at the University of Alberta studying the pediatric lymphoma, anaplastic lymphoma kinase-positive, anaplastic large cell lymphoma. Following this, he pursued postdoctoral training at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, ON. There he worked to understand how cellular context influences transformation and genesis of aggressive neuroendocrine cancers, such as small cell lung cancer and drug-resistant neuroendocrine prostate cancer. Dr. Pearson was recruited to the CancerCare Manitoba Research Institute in the fall of 2022 where his research program focuses on understanding how to overcome the inherent complexity of cancer and identify better cancer therapies.


  • CIHR Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • TD Bank Health Research Fellowship
  • Alberta Cancer Foundation Graduate Studentship
  • NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship-D
  • Michael Smith Foundation for Medical Research Junior Graduate Studentship
  • NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship-M
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    Featured Publications

    • Aubry A, Pearson JD, Charish J, Yu T, Sivak JM, Xirodimas DP, Avet-Loiseau H, Corre J, Monnier PP, Bremner R. Deneddylation of ribosomal proteins promotes synergy between MLN4924 and chemotherapy to elicit complete therapeutic responses. Cell Rep. 2023 Aug 29;42(8):112925.
    • Pearson JD, Huang K, Pacal M, McCurdy S, Lu S, Aubry A, Yu T, Wadosky KM, Zhang L, Wang T, Gregorieff A, Ahmad M, Dimaras H, Langille E, Cole SPC, Monnier P, Lok BH, Tsao M-S, Akeno N, Schramek D, Wikenheiser-Brokamp KA, Knudsen ES, Witkiewicz AK, Wrana J, Goodrich DW, Bremner R. (2021) Binary pan-cancer classes with distinct vulnerabilities defined by pro- or anti-cancer YAP/TEAD activity. Cancer Cell. 39:1115-1134.
    • Aubry A, Pearson JD, Huang K, Livne-Bar I, Ahmad M, Jagadeesan M, Khetan V, Ketela T, Brown KR, Yu T, Lu S, Wrana JL, Moffat J, Bremner R. (2020) Functional genomics identifies new synergistic therapies for retinoblastoma. Oncogene. 39: 5338-57.

    Publications List

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