June 11, 2020

Community-driven initiative finds new potential avenue of ovarian cancer treatment

Dr. Trevor Shepherd

OICR-funded researchers identify promising targets to shut down the spread of ovarian cancer

Despite new targeted therapies, ovarian cancers often spread to other organs in the body and become resistant to drugs, leading to nearly 2,000 deaths in Canada each year according to the Canadian Cancer Society. Dr. Trevor Shepherd is committed to finding new solutions for women with this disease.

In an initiative supported by local ovarian cancer survivors and philanthropic donors, Shepherd and collaborators have discovered a new way to shut down the spread of ovarian cancer. In their recent study published in Cancers, they found a molecular pathway that ovarian tumours require to spread to other organs. The study pinpoints two key proteins along this pathway – LKB1 and NUAK1 – as potential drug targets.

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March 24, 2020

Teaming up to decode DNA damage repair

Ovarian and pancreatic cancer researchers join forces to debunk which treatments work for which patients

Ovarian and pancreatic cancer are some of the most challenging cancers to treat but their common characteristics have pointed to new treatments for certain subsets of patients. Drs. Stephanie Lheureux and Grainne O’Kane have teamed up to find out which patients can benefit from these new therapies.

Over the next year, with the support of an OICR Translational Research Initiative (TRI) Collaboration Award, Lheureux and O’Kane will be taking a deeper look into patient tumour samples that have a specific DNA damage repair deficiency, called homologous recombination deficiency (HRD). These tumours are thought to be sensitive – meaning, they can be eliminated – with a certain class of drugs called PARP inhibitors, but it is difficult to predict in the clinic whether a patients tumour has HRD or not. Further, it is difficult to determine whether a patient will benefit from using PARP inhibitors.

Lheureux, who is a medical oncologist specializing in ovarian cancers, and O’Kane, who is a medical oncologist specializing in pancreatic cancers, have set out to perform whole-genome analyses on patients with HRD to find a better way to identify which patients may respond to PARP inhibitors. Both researchers are excited to tap into each other’s expertise.

“Dr. Lheureux cares for many patients facing these challenges,” says O’Kane. “She has deep clinical expertise in this area.”

“Dr. O’Kane and her closest collaborators have excellent expertise in whole genome sequencing and bioinformatics,” says Lheureux. “We’re eager to work together.”

Their analyses may help them understand the biological mechanisms driving HRD and how HRD tumours become resistant to treatment. Their findings may also extend beyond ovarian and pancreatic cancers.

“We want to define the biological response to PARP inhibitors and the mechanism of resistance so that we can help these patients make the best treatment decisions for their specific disease,” says O’Kane.

“We’re motivated to redefine HRD and understand it on a deeper level to help us overcome resistance to treatment and extend the lives of those with these cancers,” says Lheureux.

Lheureux and O’Kane’s collaboration is supported by OICR’s TRI Collaboration Award, a pilot funding stream to support the training of young investigators and encourage collaboration amongst OICR’s TRI teams.

Learn more about OICR’s Pancreatic Cancer TRI, Ovarian Cancer TRI or read about the latest TRI News.

Image credit: Background vector created by pikisuperstar – www.freepik.com

December 13, 2018

What can we gain from looking at the outliers?: An investigation into long and short-term ovarian cancer survivors

Kayla Marsh, a Research Technician, wiorks at a bench in the OICR-PM Translational Genomics Laboratory.

Researchers investigate the clinical, molecular and microenvironment factors that contribute to extreme therapy response and resistance in ovarian cancer patients

Some patients with high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC) respond exceptionally well to therapy, while others experience rapid disease relapse. The mechanisms behind these disparate outcomes are poorly understood, but a group of researchers based at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PM) supported by OICR’s Ovarian Cancer Translational Research Initiative (TRI) are working to change that.

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November 6, 2018

Discovering new ways to deploy the immune system against hidden cancers

Superresolution image of a group of killer T cells (green and red) surrounding a cancer cell (blue, center). When a killer T cell makes contact with a target cell, the killer cell attaches and spreads over the dangerous target. The killer cell then uses special chemicals housed in vesicles (red) to deliver the killing blow.

Researchers studying ovarian cancer identify adapter protein 3BP2 as a key component of immune system function and a powerful tool that could be used to activate the immune system against hidden tumour cells.

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