A surprise advance in the treatment of adult cancers
Human Genetics Newsletter 2017-01-25
Researchers at the RI-MUHC have made a discovery that could improve care for about 15% of patients with head and neck cancer linked to alcohol and tobacco use
Simon Papillon-Cavanagh, McGill University PhD candidate, Dre Nada Jabado and Jacek Majewski, PhD
SOURCE: MUHC Newsroom
A team of researchers at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) has found an epigenetic modification that might be the cause of 15% of adult cancers of the throat linked to alcohol and tobacco use. This is a first in the field of epigenetics and the researchers are hopeful that the discovery can blaze a path in the development of new, targeted, more effective treatments that could arise over the next few years.
“This discovery was absolutely unexpected since it seemed highly improbable that the kind of alterations of the epigenome that we had previously found in other types of tumours in children and young adults could also target an epithelial tumour like throat cancer that occurs only in adults,” explains Dr. Nada Jabado, a researcher at the RI-MUHC and one of the principal authors of the study published in Nature Genetics.
Head and neck cancers, also called oropharyngeal cancers or throat cancer often have devastating consequences. Standard treatments involve surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the side effects of these treatments are significant and relapses are common. That’s why oncologists are searching to develop more effective treatments that will be less harmful and have fewer deleterious effects. The discovery of this epigenetic modification opens new treatment possibilities. In fact, some promising drug molecules are already on the market for other illnesses and could possibly be tested for head and neck cancers as well as other cancers like multiple myeloma and lung cancer.
Dr. Jabado, who is also a pediatric hemato-oncologist, has hopes that this discover will have positive repercussions for pediatric cancers as well. “Now that we’ve identified this cohort of patients, we can move quite quickly since in the case of adults, as opposed to children, there are more patients and lots of clinical trials. The medicines could then be tested on children afterward.”
Prof. Mark Lathrop re-appointed Scientific Director, McGill University Genome Quebec Innovation Centre
Our congratulations to Prof. Mark Lathrop on being re-appointed as the Scientific Director at McGill University Genome Quebec Innovation Centre.
Vice-Principle and Dean of The Faculty of Medicine, Dr. David Eidelman along with Vice-Dean, Dr. Mara Ludwig made the following announcement “It is with pleasure that we announce the re-appointment of Mark Lathrop, PhD, to the position of Scientific Director, McGill University and Génome Québec Innovation Centre, a position he has held since 2011, during which time he has helped strengthen our position as a hub for genomic research in Quebec and a leader nationally and internationally.
A native of British Columbia, Professor Lathrop completed his Bachelor of Science and Master’s degrees at the University of Alberta before obtaining his PhD from the University of Washington (Seattle) in Biomathematics. He then moved to France, where he was one of the founders of the Centre d’Étude du Polymorphisme Humain, which pioneered international collaboration on the human genome in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1993, Dr. Lathrop moved to the University of Oxford, where he was a Wellcome Trust Principal Fellow and Professor of Human Genetics, during which time he co-founded and was first Scientific Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, an institute created to apply genomic approaches to understanding the molecular basis of human disease. In 1997, he was asked by the French government to form the Centre National de Genotypage outside of Paris in Evry, which he directed until 2012.
Professor in the Department of Human Genetics at McGill, Professor Lathrop’s current research is focused on the use of the human genome sequence, and other information about the human genome, to understand the molecular basis of disease, and how these can be applied to individualize approaches to disease prevention and treatment. His work has been recognized with many honours throughout his career, including the French Order of Merit and the French Legion of Honour.”
Congratulations: Dr. Guy Rouleau awarded the 2016 Prix de l’oeuvre scientifique.
By Shawn Hayward, Montreal Neuro
Dr. Guy Rouleau, Director of the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University and the McGill University Health Centre, has been chosen to receive another major award recognizing his outstanding scientific career. The national organization representing Canadian francophone doctors, Médecins francophones du Canada, is bestowing on him its 2016 Prix de l’oeuvre scientifique.
“In awarding this prize, our association would like to underlie Dr. Rouleau’s contribution to the advancement of medical knowledge and to recognize his entire scientific career,” says Dr. Marie-Françoise Mégie, president of the Médecins francophones du Canada, a Montreal-based organization dedicated to promoting humane, high-quality medicine through its network of members.The Prix de l’oeuvre scientifique recognizes the career’s work of a Canadian doctor whose activities and scientific publications have had a wide influence on domestic and international clinical practice, and on advancing medicine.
“I am honoured to accept this award from a prestigious organization such as Médecins francophones du Canada,” says Dr. Rouleau. “The previous scientists who have received the Prix de l’oeuvre scientifique have all made impressive achievements and I am proud to count myself among them.”
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