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Posted Thu, 01/17/2013 - 13:57 in Health

Dalhousie Medical School researchers publish two of the top five cancer research papers in Canada

Two Dalhousie Medical School researchers, Drs. Drew Leidal and Kyle Phipps, were recently awarded the Canadian Institute of Health Research’s Institute for Cancer Research (ICR) Publication Prize. The researchers were honored for publishing two of the top five cancer research papers in Canada. Each paper exhibits groundbreaking discoveries as to what causes the spread of cancer cells in the body.

Key Points:

  • Approximately one-sixth of all cancers are caused by viral infection. Dr. Leidal's research examines how the human herpes virus, Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpes virus (KSHV), can bypass our body's anti-cancer defenses, like oncogene-induced senescence (which normally puts the breaks on uncontrolled cell proliferation).

  • KSHV has evolved a clever, two-component system for bypassing the senescence barrier and initiating cancer: a viral protein called v-cyclin drives cell proliferation, while a second viral protein called v-FLIP disables the senescence program.

  • Dr. Leidal identifies senescence as a vital barrier to KSHV tumour formation. Reinforcing these defenses may have therapeutic benefit in treating KSHV and other human cancers.

  • In his paper, Dr. Phipps identifies a key mechanism of cancer metastasis that could lead to blocking tumour growth. Chemically blocking macrophages or the S100A10 protein that they carry could slow, or even stop, tumour growth.

Pull Quotes:

  • "Viruses are excellent teachers, and by studying cancer-causing viruses we not only learn about malignancies such as Kaposi's sarcoma and Burkitt's lymphoma, but also about cellular pathways that are frequently disrupted in cancers unlinked to viruses." -- Dr. Drew Leidal, Microbiology & Immunology

  • "Our group has discovered that a drug called Rapamycin can kick-start autophagy (a process where cells clean up damage by 'eating' parts of themselves) and clear the clogged senescence pathway. This strategy allows the cell to defend against the virus by arresting cell growth and prevent cancer." -- Dr. Craig McCormick, principal investigator and assistant professor, Microbiology & Immunology

  • "Research shows that macrophages migrate from the blood stream to the tumor site by utilizing S100A10 to activate plasmin, a protease. Proteases digest connective tissue and other barriers, in this case allowing the macrophage to gain access to the tumor site. Removing S100A10 or the macrophages themselves effectively halts tumor growth in a mouse model." -- Dr. Kyle Phipps, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

  • "We used to think that the only cells that mattered in a tumour were the cancer cells. Now we see that other cells must collaborate with cancer cells to drive tumour growth and permit an evolution of the cancer cells into metastatic cells." -- Dr. David Waisman, professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, and Canada Research Chair in Cancer Research

  • "These two remarkable trainees have made a significant contribution to our understanding of the cellular conditions that allow cancer to arise and the factors that influence the spread of cancer. The national recognition also affirms the high quality of our trainees and the cancer research that is conducted here. We are very proud of these talented young investigators." -- Dr. Gerry Johnston, associate dean of research at Dalhousie Medical School


Dr. Drew Leidal

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Dr. Kyle Phipps

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