April 30, 2010
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Maybe these primary research projects will lead to the next great “Dendreon” story…
Mirror-rorriM Movement Disorder: Defects in the proper connections between the left and right sides of the brain can lead to involuntary movements where one side of the body follows or mirrors the movement of the other side. A study of two families affected by inherited cases of mirror movements led to the identification of mutations in the DCC gene (Deleted in Colorectal Carcinoma). DCC is a receptor for netrin-1, which is a factor that is important for guiding neural axons across the midline to make the proper left-right connections. This is a key finding in understanding the complexities of how our brains are wired. Dr. Guy Rouleau (Université de Montréal) and Dr. Frédéric Charron (Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal) collaborated on the study and is published in the prestigious Science journal.
Improving RNA Therapeutics: RNA interference based therapeutics is gaining traction in the biotech world (eg. Tekmira, Alnylam, MDRNA). Enhancing the potency of siRNA is the focus of this research study published in Nucleic Acids Research journal. The technology uses a combination of DNA and RNA analogs to increase the stability of the siRNA agent against nucleases and helps them to evade immune responses that often limit their effectiveness. Dr. Masad Damha led his group at McGill University.
Also in Montreal, Drs. François Major and Gerardo Ferbeyre (Université de Montréal) announced the launch of the first ribonucleic acid (RNA) engineering laboratory in Canada. They are using bioinformatics and biochemistry to come up with designer microRNAs that can control the behaviour of RNAs to control or cure cancers.
New Tumour Suppressor: A recent study demonstrates the tumour suppressor properties of the Cdh11 gene. The first hint of this function arose from studies showing a frequent loss Cdh11 in retinoblastoma cancers. Using a series of animal models to determine the role of Cdh11, Dr. Brenda Gallie’s team (Ontario Cancer Institute) demonstrated the tumour suppressor properties of Cdh11 through a mechanism promoting cell death or apoptosis. The full text article appears online in PLoS Genetics.
Lung Cancer Drug Target: CXCR4 may be the next therapeutic target for treating lung cancer. Its overexpression in about 10% of lung cancers is associated with poor patient outcome (2.7 vs. 6.1 months survival), likely due to CXCR4’s support for the rapid growth and metastasis of tumours. On the brighter side, anti-CXCR4 drugs, which are already in existence for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, may be “fast tracked” for testing in lung cancer patients. Dr. Gwyn Bebb, from the University of Calgary, presented her data recently at the 2nd European Lung Cancer Conference.
February 26, 2010
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A few medical research applications this week…
Personalized Medicine – for Lung Cancer: To develop a personalized medicine approach to treating non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), researchers generated a xenograft model where they implant human tumour tissue into the renal capsule of a host mouse. As the tumour establishes itself, the mouse then becomes the platform for testing various chemotherapy regimes (cisplatin+vinorelbine; cisplatin+docetaxel; cisplatin+gemcitabine) to determine which one or combination therapy is the most effective against each of the different tumours. They compared the results of the treatments in mice to retrospective patient outcomes and found significant correlation to consider the xenograft model a success. Although it takes about 6-8 weeks for the results, they believe that it is quick enough to gain an insightful preliminary assessment of the potential therapeutic outcome. Dr. Yuzhuo Wang led his team at the BC Cancer Agency and reports their work in Clinical Cancer Research.
HIV-1 Molecular Manipulations: HIV-1 infected patients exhibit a loss of CD4+ T cells, which are essential players in the defense against viral infections. A new study reveals how the HIV-1 protein, Vpr, activates the Natural Killer (NK) cells by inducing the expression of stress-related proteins at the cell surface of CD4+ T cells. The NK cells recognize the stress signals on CD4+ T cells and attacks and destroy these cells, leaving the patient with severely reduced CD4+ T cells. Researchers also noticed that the continuous activation of NK cells eventually desensitizes them and they eventually lose their ability to perform their normal duties in attacking infected cells. The molecular mechanisms of Vpr discovered in this study should help in future research leading to new therapeutic strategies. Dr. Éric Cohen and his team at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal describe their research in last week’s issue of Blood.
Protecting Your Heart: The blood pressure cuff you see in every doctor’s office can be used to limit the severity of heart attacks by triggering a molecular response in the body that protects the heart during an attack. It is called remote ischemic preconditioning where the blood pressure cuff is used to intermittently cut off blood flow to the arm during an attack. This triggers an innate response warning message throughout the body to release molecules to protect itself from the lack of blood flow. In this particular study, the size of the heart attacks were reduced by 30-50% compared to control groups. It is one of the most effective treatments and is relatively simple to administer. Dr. Andrew Redington at The Hospital for Sick Children led the international study and is published in the The Lancet.