Joanna Li

Research Assistant
M.Sc. Microbiology & Immunology
Radiobiology and Microdosimetry


Joanna was born in China and completed her undergraduate degree in Immunology at McGill University. She went on to obtain a Master’s degree in Immunology at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM) where she focused on understanding the role of T cell costimulatory receptors in cancer. She joined the Enger lab in 2021 as a research assistant in the Radiobiology group.

Current Projects

Relative Biological Effectiveness of Photon Radiation Qualities for Human Rectal Cancer Cells
Photon radiation qualities used in the clinic have been assumed to have a relative biological effectiveness (RBE) of 1.00 regardless of the photon energy used. Different photon energies have varying linear energy transfers which can impact cell survival. Moreover, different cancer cell types have different responses to radiation due to their intrinsic radiosensitivity.

Joanna’s project aims to characterize the RBE of clinically relevant high and low photon energies such as MV x-rays, Ir-192 brachytherapy source and Xoft electronic brachytherapy source, using 225 kVp x-rays as a reference quality. She will irradiate human colorectal cancer cell lines HCT116 and HT29 in vitro with these photon qualities, then assess cell survival using the clonogenic assay. She will compare her data with her colleagues Naim and Joud, who are conducting RBE studies using the human cervical cancer cell line HeLa and prostate cancer cell line PC3 respectively. This will help them determine how different cancer types could affect the RBE of photon qualities.

In the future, Joanna will also aim to measure the RBE of higher linear energy transfer radiation qualities such as alpha particles. In addition, she will investigate how the DNA damage response could impact RBE for a particular cancer type by irradiating HPV+ vs. HPV- human head and neck cancer cells.