Versha Banerji, MD FRCPC

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Versha Banerji, MD FRCPC

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Research Discipline(s): Translational

Primary Title: Clinician Scientist

Additional Titles & Affiliations: Associate Professor, Departments of Internal Medicine and Biochemistry and Medical Genetics, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, Universitiy of Manitoba. Senior Scientist CancerCare Manitoba Research Institute


CLL, HCL, Mitochondria, Novel Therapeutics, Sex Differences, Clinical Trials, Real World Evidence, Blood Cancers

Using research to advance and improve clinical care

Research Summary

I discovered novel targets using high-throughput gene-expression based technologies using “on/off” signatures for differentiation and validating them in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) (J Clinical Investigation 2012). We identified glycogen synthase kinase-3 alpha (GSK-3α) as a novel target in AML, leading to the development of GSK-3 isoform selective inhibitors, a patent, and licensing agreement. We validated SYK inhibitors and their regulation of mTOR signaling in AML (Leukemia 2013). Finally, we investigated the role of MTHFD2 in AML (J Experiment Med 2016), which I have applied to my work in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL).

I am currently following cohorts of patients to evaluate the impact of implementing novel medications, and reporting unknown toxicities along with the impact of bioenergetics ex vivo (Blood 2017, Current Oncology 2019, Cancers 2020, 2021). This work spearheaded collaborations with Drs. D. Dawe, K. Decker, A.Marshall and M.Jones resulting in a translational grant being awarded by CIHR (2019). This Geroscience team grant led by Dr Dawe, aims to understand aging and frailty in CLL and in parallel the impact on mitochondria. It has also enabled me to pursue my interest in sex differences in blood cancers with funding from the HCL Foundation. It also enabled a grant from Lymphoma Canada to evaluate the impact of noveI agents in clinical practice and their costs. I also am an expert in NAMPT in cancer (CCR 2014, Oncotarget 2017). My lab investigates the role of metabolism in blood cancers. We established that NAMPT can be targeted by FK866 leading to cancer cell specific death by apoptosis (Clinical Cancer Research 2014) using flow cytometry and western blot analysis in primary CLL patient samples. This led to a collaboration with Dr. H. Kovar in Vienna, Austria, where my lab tested the impact of NAMPT inhibition on knockdown of EWS-FLI in Ewing’s Sarcoma cell lines using lentiviral techniques and evaluated their mitochondrial bioenergetics (Oncotarget 2017). My lab infrastructure includes an Acea NovoCyte 96-well flow cytometry platform, to perform the assays on the drug combinations described in the proposal, and an Oroboros oxygraph to characterize mitochondrial bioenergetics (using respirometry) in suspension cells. The results obtained from these findings was recently published in Cancers 2020 and 2021. The availability of the Proteomics platform and Collaborations with Dr. R. Zahedi and the establishment of multi-omic platforms at CCMR will enable us to continue to evaluate the impact of novel therapeutics on the mitochondria and leverage that knowledge for novel discoveries as recently demonstrated with Dr. S. Katyal and with Dr. T. Sharif. It will also enable the development of collaborations locally and beyond.


The goal of my research is to draw from observations in the clinic and bring safe and effective treatments to patients while keeping the public health system in mind. This comes from understanding the mechanisms by which cancer cells escape from today's treatments and specifically the role of the mitochondria or the intersection of survival pathways and mitochondrial function promote cancer cell survival. This information can then help discover new therapies that leverage these dependencies and bring new agents to clinical trial ultimately changing clinical practice. My goal is to foster a safe and collegial training environment for trainees at all levels and provide mentorship with my authentic leadership style.

Research Biography

I completed my BSc, Pre-Masters in Physiology, MD, and Internal Medicine training at the University of Manitoba (UM). I then completed specialty training at CancerCare Manitoba (CCMB) and the UM in Hematology. I pursued research training at the Dana-Farber Cancer Research Institute/Harvard Cancer Center and Broad Institute of MIT (2007-2011) with a Post MD NCIC-TFRI Fellowship. My projects involved cancer drug discovery and target validation. Since returning to Canada, I have established myself as a translational scientist in CLL with impactful outreach in the form of webinars, lectures, reviews, guidelines, translational and lab based publications. I am the Co Lead of the Manitoba CLL Translational Research Group and Lead for the establishment of the Manitoba CLL Centre of Excellence and the patient partnership committee.


  • TFRI Post MD Research fellowship 2009
  • Hoeschen Memorial Mentorship Award 2012
  • Lady Tata Memorial Leukemia Research Award 2013
  • Section of Hematology/Oncology Research Award 2016
  • Research Manitoba New Investigator Award 2016
  • Section of Hematology/Oncology Research Award 2019
  • Licensing fees from Biogen for post doctoral discoveries 2018
  • ASH oral session moderator and abstract reviewer 2019
  • Co Chair Canadian CLL Meeting 2019- present
  • Executive Committee member CIHR- Scientific Officer ( CBT, CPT, CBT2)- 2019
  • The Martha Donovan Women’s leadership award 2020
  • Harvard Business School Women’s Leadership Forum almumni 2022
  • WXN top 100 women in the science and technology category nominee 2019, 2020, 2021
  • CLC.3 National Study CHAIR: CCCTG CLL cooperative group study -2021- present
  • Provisional Patent filed from work at the U of M-2022
  • Major Awards in Oncology Reviewer University of Manitoba 2022- present
  • Invited speaker for national and international meetings on CLL-2019 present
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    Featured Publications

    • J Clin Invest. 2012 Mar;122(3):935-47. doi: 10.1172/JCI46465.
    • Clin Cancer Res. 2014 Sep 15;20(18):4861-72. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-14-0624.
    • J Exp Med. 2016 Jun 27;213(7):1285-306. doi: 10.1084/jem.20151574.
    • Blood. 2017 Feb 2;129(5):553-560. doi: 10.1182/blood-2016-01-689422.
    • Curr Oncol. 2019 Oct;26(5):e610-e617. doi: 10.3747/co.26.4957. Epub 2019 Oct 1.
    • Cancers (Basel). 2020 Mar 11;12(3):650. doi: 10.3390/cancers12030650.
    • Lancet. 2020 Apr 18;395(10232):1278-1291. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30262-2
    • BMC Cancer. 2022 Feb 6;22(1):148. doi: 10.1186/s12885-022-09256-2.
    • Am J Hematol. 2023 Feb 20. doi: 10.1002/ajh.26881.

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