October 24, 2017

Researchers discover genes behind the spread of lung cancer to the brain

Mohini Singh works in the lab

Brain tumours resulting from the spread of cancer from its primary location, known as brain metastases (BM), are the most common form of brain tumours in adults. A team of Ontario-based researchers recently identified two genes that seem to play a central role in BM in lung cancer patients – findings that could lead to improved biomarkers and treatments for BM.

In a study published in the journal Acta Neuropatologica, Mohini Singh and her collaborators focused on a class of cells they have termed Brain Metastases Initiating Cells (BMICs), which leave the primary site of cancer and migrate to the brain.

Singh, a biochemistry PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Sheila Singh at McMaster University, explains the approach the team took to study these cells. “There was a lack of preclinical models that we could use to comprehensively study BMICs and understand the mechanisms behind them. To conduct our study we used brain metastases from lung cancer patients, which we cultured in conditions to enrich for BMICs, and then transplanted them into mice. This method allowed us to study BMICs within a living host, which provides a more accurate representation of the development of brain metastasis in humans.”

The researchers performed in vitro and in vivo RNA interference screens utilizing their unique BM models, and found two genes that were essential to the regulation of BMICs: SPOCK1 and TWIST2. “We discovered that SPOCK1 is a regulator of self-renewal in BMICs, playing a role in the initiation of lung tumours and their metastasis to the brain,” explains Singh. Furthermore, the results were clinically relevant. “Increased SPOCK1 expression was seen in lung cancer biopsies of patients with known brain metastases, and was correlated with poor survival.” Through protein-protein interaction mapping the researchers also identified new pathway interactors of the two genes that could be used as novel targets in treatment of BM in lung cancer patients.

“Identifying these two genes could be of great use in improving the treatment of lung cancer. In the future we could predict those patients who are most at risk of developing a brain metastasis and use drugs to target BMIC regulatory genes such as SPOCK1 and TWIST2 to destroy the initiating cells and to block the spread,” says Singh. “This would result in keeping the lung cancer locally controlled and therefore more treatable.”

OICR funding was used to establish this study with further significant funding coming from the Canadian Cancer Society and the Brain Canada Studentship.

August 17, 2017

New genes discovered regulating brain metastases in lung cancer

Mohini SinghResearch from McMaster University has identified new regulators of brain metastases in patients with lung cancer.

These regulators are the genes called SPOCK1 and TWIST2.

Continue reading – New genes discovered regulating brain metastases in lung cancer

July 11, 2017

New multi-disciplinary team taking a stem cell-based approach to target acute leukemia

TEchnicians work in a stem cell research lab.

The rising use of stem cell-based therapies has illustrated the power of stem cells to treat a number of diseases. Now a group of Ontario researchers are looking at the promise of stem cells from a different perspective. Amongst other efforts, they are developing and testing new therapies that target and kill leukemic stem cells to lessen the chances of acute leukemias (AL) coming back following standard treatment.

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June 28, 2017

Ontario researchers identify rare therapy-resistant stem cells linked to AML patient relapse

By combining new knowledge from the fields of stem cell biology and genetics, a group of Ontario researchers led by Dr. John Dick have solved the mystery of why some acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients relapse after initial treatment.

Continue reading – Ontario researchers identify rare therapy-resistant stem cells linked to AML patient relapse

April 25, 2017

Dr. John Dick presented with CIHR Gold Leaf Award for Discovery

Dr. John Dick

Dr. John Dick was recognized for his pioneering research in cancer stem cells with the presentation of the CIHR Gold Leaf Award for Discovery. He was the first scientist in the world to confirm their existence. Better understanding of cancer stem cells has the potential to lead to new treatments, ultimately resulting in improved patient outcomes.

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January 26, 2017

Dr. John Dick to present 2017 Tobias Award Lecture

Dr. John Dick

The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) has honoured Dr. John Dick by selecting him to deliver the 2017 Tobias Award Lecture at the organization’s annual meeting June 14-17 in Boston. The honour, supported by the Tobias Foundation, recognizes promising research into stem cell therapies for haematological conditions.

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December 7, 2016

Cancer stem cell scientists create tool to aid in planning treatment for leukemia

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the most common form of acute leukemia in adults and is one of the most deadly. Although AML is treated as a single disease, patient response to intensive curative-intent chemotherapy varies. It is currently difficult to predict who will do well with standard treatment, and who will not benefit from standard treatment and might do better enrolling in a clinical trial where they may be offered novel therapies.

Continue reading – Cancer stem cell scientists create tool to aid in planning treatment for leukemia

December 1, 2016

Expanding the DNA alphabet to understand cancer

Dr. Michael Hoffman poses for a photo at his desk.

The base components of DNA – adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine (commonly referred to as ATCG) are so fundamental to the study of genetics that they are probably familiar to anyone who has taken a high school biology class. Now, one team of researchers has expanded the ‘DNA alphabet’ to help aid in efforts to learn how cancers develop.

Continue reading – Expanding the DNA alphabet to understand cancer

August 9, 2016

Patients need access to more stem cells for transplants. Researchers have now identified the genetic switch that could turn on the supply

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Researchers at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, funded in part by OICR, have found a genetic switch that could be used to develop many more stem cells from the blood found in umbilical cords, a resource that is highly valuable for stem cell transplants but still in short supply.

Continue reading – Patients need access to more stem cells for transplants. Researchers have now identified the genetic switch that could turn on the supply

July 14, 2016

Stem cell scientists discover genetic switch to increase supply of stem cells from cord blood for future clinical use

UHN Logo(TORONTO, Canada – July 14, 2016) – International stem cell scientists, co-led in Canada by Dr. John Dick and in the Netherlands by Dr. Gerald de Haan, have discovered the switch to harness the power of cord blood and potentially increase the supply of stem cells for cancer patients needing transplantation therapy to fight their disease.

Continue reading – Stem cell scientists discover genetic switch to increase supply of stem cells from cord blood for future clinical use

May 5, 2016

A new method to grow stem cells for cancer patients

Stem Cell

Researchers uncovered the role of a protein called Musashi-2 in regulating the function and development of stem cells. The improved understanding of the role of Musashi-2 will allow researchers to employ new strategies to control the growth of blood stem cells which are used to treat many life-threatening diseases, but are usually in short supply. The research was published in April in the journal Nature.

Continue reading – A new method to grow stem cells for cancer patients

April 6, 2016

Dr. John Dick elected as 2016 Fellow of the AACR Academy

Toronto (April 6, 2016) – Dr. Tom Hudson, President and Scientific Director of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) today congratulated Dr. John Dick on receiving the prestigious honour of being one of 11 newly elected Fellows to the AACR (American Association for Cancer Research) Academy.

Dr. Dick is a Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology and Senior Scientist at the University Health Network’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Director of the Cancer Stem Cell Program at OICR.

Continue reading – Dr. John Dick elected as 2016 Fellow of the AACR Academy

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