Principal Investigator

Dr. Spicer was born and raised in Montreal and completed his Bachelor degree in Science at McGill University. He continued his medical training at McGill where he earned his MD, after which he moved to Vancouver and completed his surgical internship at the University of British Columbia. He returned to McGill the following year and completed his general surgical training during which he participated in the Surgeon Scientist and Clinical Investigator programs as an FRSQ funded student and earned a PhD in Experimental Surgery.


Dr. Spicer completed his training in Cardiothoracic Surgery at the world’s largest cancer center – University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. His clinical interests focus on minimally invasive approaches to lung cancer as well as complex resections for advanced thoracic malignancies. He has paired his clinical focus with a comprehensive research program in cancer metastasis. His laboratory studies the link between inflammation and metastasis with a particular focus on neutrophil and circulating tumor cell interactions.


Research interests:

Neutrophil based mechanisms of cancer metastasis, inflammation and cancer, thoracic malignancy clinical trials, airway surgery, thoracic trauma.



While surgery continues to be the cornerstone of definitive treatment for thoracic malignancies such as esophageal and lung cancer, metastasis  the leading cause of death for these patients. There is an abundance of clinical evidence demonstrating that post-operative complications and acute systemic inflammation are associated with decreased disease-free survival in patients undergoing a wide variety of oncologic. The cellular players responsible for this phenomenon are only now coming to light and our laboratory has been a pioneer in establishing the role of neutrophils in this process.


Neutrophils are the key cellular mediators of acute systemic inflammation and have evolved a wide array of mechanisms to carry out their function. Most recently, we have demonstrated that circulating tumor cells (CTC) can adhere directly over arrested neutrophils in metastatic sites such as the liver and that this occurs in a cell adhesion molecule dependent fashion. Furthermore, we have shown that acute inflammation causes the release of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) in the microvasculature of host organs such as the lungs and liver and that these NETs facilitate cancer cell arrest and promote metastatic outgrowth. NET release (NETosis) is a recently described mechanism utilized by neutrophils to fight microbial infections. In an afflicted host, neutrophils can extrude their intracellular DNA in a web-like fashion into the microvasculature of an infected organ.


Our research has shown that these NETs can also trap circulating cancer cells and in fact promote their growth into gross metastasis. Recent developments in neutrophil biology have shown that NETs can also be induced by sterile inflammation such as that induced by local trauma or even by inflammatory agents secreted by a primary malignancy.


The primary focus of our lab is aimed at understanding what molecular mechanisms are responsible for NET/CTC interactions. We also wish to elucidate if tumor-bearing individuals are prone to NET formation and if this phenomenon has prognostic significance. If this is the case, NET based interference may be a valuable clinical therapy to limit metastatic spread from the time of diagnosis up to and including the treatment phase (surgery, radiation and chemotherapy) where patients are prone to acute inflammatory events. Preliminary data suggest that this process is likely conserved across numerous solid tumor sites with propensity for hematogenous spread. Hence, this type of therapy could have far reaching implications for cancer patients. Our goal is for these investigations to yield entirely novel clinical trials in the coming years.



Harry S. Morton Travelling Fellowship in Surgery

Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada




American Surgical Association Fellowship Award




Dr. Ray Chiu Distinguished Scientist in Surgical Research Award
McGill University Health




Clinician Scientist Award Junior 1, Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Santé



Henry Shibata Cedars Cancer Fellowship, The Cedars Cancer Institute



F. Ann Birks Fellowship, McGill University Health Centre Research Institute


“Neutrophil Extracellular Traps in Cancer and COVID-19”

American Association of Cancer Research Annual Meeting, 2021


Visiting professor

“Expanding windows of opportunity for operable lung cancer patients at the intersection of innate and adaptive immunity”

Thoracic Disease Site Group Case Conference Rounds, Cancer Care Manitoba, 2021 by Zoom


Panel member

Stage III/Unresectable”

IASLC 2021 Target Therapies of Lung Cancer Meeting, by Zoom


“Surgery for locally advanced lung cancer: A platform for discovery”

Canadian Lung Cancer Conference 2021, by Zoom


“Lung surgery and the COVID-19 pandemic”

Best of Lung Cancer Summit 2020, by Zoom.


 “Surgery after neoadjuvant immunotherapy”

Course in advances in the multidisciplinary approach to lung cancer, Universidad Autónoma

de Madrid, Madrid, Spain, September, 2020 by Zoom.


Visiting professor

“Surgery as a platform for discovery in oncology”

Lung Symposium, Cancer Care Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, March 14, 2020

Declined due to COVID19 pandemic


“Surgery as a platform for discovery in oncology”

Grand rounds, Division of Ears Nose and Throat surgery, McGill University, Montreal,

Quebec, Canada, Oct 31, 2019


“Intraluminal vac sponge for leak/perforation”

International Society of Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery, New York, NY 2019


“Surgery for locally advanced lung cancer: A platform for discovery”

McGill University Fraser Gurd Annual Surgical Research Day, McGill University, Montreal,

Canada 2019


“Surgical considerations after induction therapy for stage III A disease”

 International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, 2018


“Enhanced recovery after thoracic surgery: How far can we take it?”

Canadian Association of Thoracic Surgeons, 2018


“The emerging role of the neutrophil in cancer progression: Friend or Foe?”

 Goodman Cancer Research Center Tumor Immunology Labs, McGill University,

 Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 2018


“The emerging role of the neutrophil in cancer progression: Friend or Foe?”

 Department of Microbiology and Immunology Seminar, McGill University,

 Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 2017


Want to join the Thoracic Surgery & Upper GI Cancer Lab?

Contact Ms. Betty Giannias
514-934-1934 ext. 76102