Julie Deleemans | Top 40 Under 40 2023

She tests to see if probiotics can help treat gastrointestinal and psychosocial symptoms in cancer patients after treatment.

Photo by Jared Sych; location, Centennial Place.

Age: 36

Job title: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine

Why she’s a 2023 Top 40 Under 40: She tests to see if probiotics can help treat gastrointestinal and psychosocial symptoms in cancer patients after treatment.

At the age of 18, Julie Deleemans was diagnosed with stage IV laryngeal cancer, and had to choose between removing her voice box and getting high-dose chemoradiation or dying before her 19th birthday. Although a traumatic experience, Deleemans says it catalyzed her passion for helping others. “I believe I survived cancer for a reason, a purpose, and helping others is how I fulfill that purpose,” she says.

Today, Deleemans is a research fellow at the University of Calgary with a PhD in Psychosocial Oncology. Through her research and clinical work, she found a connection between cancer treatments, especially chemotherapy, and long-term disturbance of the gut microbiome, which was related to poorer psychosocial and gastrointestinal (GI) health in cancer survivors.

In her own experience, she suffered from anxiety, PTSD, depression and GI issues due to her diagnosis and treatments. While probiotics have been found to help treat certain GI symptoms in patients on active treatments, few studies have looked at the effects on survivors. Deleemans’ PhD research, called the Chemo-Gut Project, looked at how treatments for cancer impact the gut microbiome, and how changes in gut microbes may impact psychosocial and GI health, making it the first of its kind. With a grant from Alberta Health Services, Deleemans started the Chemo-Gut Probiotic Trial. If successful, the finding could provide the first evidence that probiotics can repair the gut microbiome after it has been destroyed by chemotherapy.

Deleemans also works with AYA Can, an organization she co-founded in 2018 that is committed to improving access to quality age-appropriate care for adolescents and young adults with cancer. “I hope that through this work, I can make the world just a little better and leave it a better place when I go,” she says.

Thank Yous
“My mentor and supervisor, Dr. Linda Carlson; my mentees and others affected by cancer; and my family, friends and rescue kitty, Calvin.”


Top 40 Under 40 2023

Susannah S. Alleyne

Dave Carlton & Andrew Renaux

May Choi

Devin Cooper

Matthew Corkum

Morgan Curley & Marc Husted

Lauren DeDieu

Julie Deleemans

Barry, Daniel & Lorin Doerksen

Nauzer Forbes

Aravind Ganesh

Stephanie Hutchinson

Hadis Karimipour

Dion Kelly & Eli Kinney-Lang

Ben Klepacki

Krista Lauridsen

Chantelle Little

Aaron Logan

Adam Martinson

Renee Matsalla

Jayme Minor

Husein Moloo

Daniel Monzon

Anna Murphy

Toyin Lafenwa Oladele

Maxim Olshevsky

David Oulton

Kathryn Pearce

Jacqueline Peterson

Steven Ross

Julie Rubin

Ishita Singla

Chaz Smith

Cassie Suche

Jared Darcy Tailfeathers

Brodie Thomas

Benjamin Tutolo

Andrea Urquhart

Ashley Wanamaker

Steven Yip

Learn more about the people and organizations moving Calgary forward with Avenue's Innovation Newsletter.

This article appears in the November 2023 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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