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Research

Basic and Translational Cancer Research

Tumour Vaccines

Extensive internationally recognized research on the effect of the immune system on cancer has been conducted in laboratories at McMaster. This has led to the development of adenovirus vectors that potentially can be used as tumour vaccines. Currently Drs. Bindi Dhesy and Ronan Foley from the JCC are conducting a Phase I clinical trial of a tumour vaccine for women with breast cancer whose tumours over-express the Her2 Neu oncogene. Dendritic cells which have been transduced with an adenovirus that expresses rat Her 2 Neu is the vaccine. This study has received funding from the Ontario Cancer Research Network (OCRN).

Tumour Biomarkers

Currently the majority of patients with early stage breast cancer are treated with radiation therapy. Most of these women are unlikely to develop recurrence of the cancer. However in a significant number of patients the cancer will be resistant to radiation therapy and recur and also a small number will develop significant toxicity secondary to treatment. Recently genetic studies of patients' tumours have identified molecular predictors for cancer recurrence and responses to chemo and endocrine therapies, e.g. in breast cancer, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assays of 21 selected genes responsible for cell proliferation and invasion, and HER 2 Neu over expression for responses to chemotherapy and herceptin. Dr. Tim Whelan is currently studying certain molecular markers in breast cancer tissue that may predict resistance or toxicity to radiation in patients enrolled in an OCOG radiation therapy trial. The current study is funded by the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance (CBCRA).

Tumour Metastasis Research Unit

The major focus of the tumor metastasis research unit, led by Dr. Gurmit Singh, is to integrate knowledge from diverse areas and disciplines in an attempt to better understand the mechanisms associated with tumor invasion and metastasis. The primary focus of the unit has been on bone metastasis associated with breast, prostate and lung cancer. The role of thrombosis, oxidative stress and proteases are being actively investigated in the unit with substantial peer-reviewed funding from the National Cancer Institute, Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance (CBCRA), and the CIHR.

Orthopedics in Bone Metastases

A collaboration between Dr. Steve Shaughnessy at the Henderson Research Centre and Drs. Michelle Ghert and Gurmit Singh in the tumour metastasis research unit at the JCC is beginning to formulate common research questions. These include the investigation of the effects of joint implant biomaterials on bone metabolism, understanding bone formation in the vicinity of orthopedic hardware, preventing bone breakdown in patients with cancer deposits in the bone, and understanding molecular targets and novel therapies for bone metastasis.

Noninvasive Optical Diagnostics and Therapeutics Research

This research group, led by Dr. Mike Patterson, is exploring the use of optical technology for the diagnosis, staging and treatment of cancer. They work closely with the basic science bone metastases research group on molecular bioluminescence and fluorescence imaging in small animals. The group is led by Dr. Michael Patterson, Head of Medical Physics, and comprises approximately ten faculty members in Medical Physics, Pathology and Molecular Imaging, Biology and Radiation Oncology. It has extensive national and international collaboration and Dr. Patterson is a member of the Canadian Institute for Photonic Innovations, a federal Network of Excellence (NCE). Current research funding is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH-US), NCIC, CIHR, OCRN and the NCE Program. This group has also worked with various industrial partners with an emphasis on device and technology development. An international reputation has been established in biophysical modeling of light propagation in tissue, non-invasive optical spectroscopy and photodynamic therapy dosimetry.

Experimental Therapeutics Program

The JCC has a well-developed and growing Investigational New Drug (IND) Program led by Dr. Hal Hirte. About 25 per cent of patients entered on clinical trials participate in Phase I or II studies. The activity has focused in three main areas of therapeutic intervention: i) invasion and metastasis, ii) cell signaling, and iii) tumour immunology. The program carries out these studies through the NCIC-Clinical Trials Group, the Princess Margaret Phase II consortium (which is funded through the NIH and allows access to novel agents licensed to the NCI-US as well as access to funding for translational research studies done in the context of these studies), and through industry-sponsored collaborations. This program is planning to expand by capitalizing on innovative research conducted at McMaster by linking with researchers in imaging and by recruitment of scientists expert in pharmacology and experience in mechanisms of drug resistance. Recently, Dr. Sebastien Hotte was a successful co-applicant on a grant to the NCI-US to study Phase 1 drugs

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