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.