U of S researchers look for a new way to stop the spread of cancer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -March 25, 2013 SASKATOON - Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are designing an entirely new approach which aims to stop the spread of cancer (metastasis). The major cause of cancer death is metastasis and finding new methods for blocking the metastasis is crucial for improving cancer therapy.

Antibodies have become the major breakthrough for cancer treatment. Using synthetic antibodies developed in a test tube, the researchers hope to induce the combination of two proteins in cells to block the spread of breast cancer, a major cause of death. What makes this research novel is that it goes beyond breast cancer to trying to understand how to prevent the spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body.
Ron Geyer and co-investigator Andrew Freywald, professors in the U of S departments of biochemistry and pathology respectively, have received a $200,000 Innovation Grant from the Canadian Cancer Society to develop and test this promising new research. Their project is one of 37 new Canadian Cancer Society Innovation Grants recently announced. These grants, worth over $7 million in total, support research that has the potential to significantly improve understanding of cancer and generate new approaches to prevention, early detection and treatment.
While there has been progress in developing new therapies for breast cancer, the disease remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Last year, an estimated 22,700 Canadian women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,100 died from it. Most deaths are a result of the breast cancer cells spreading to other parts of the body.
Drs Geyer and Freywald will develop new synthetic antibodies for activating an entirely new target, the EphB6 receptor. In his previous research, Dr Freywald has shown that this molecule has a strong potential to prevent breast cancer from spreading by activating an anti-metastic protein in breast cancer cells called EphB4/EphB6.
The team's expertise in protein engineering will allow the researchers to produce "synthetic" antibodies that would enforce this interaction. They will explore the therapeutic properties of these antibodies in human breast cancer cells, to be followed by further testing in clinical trials. Their findings may lead to a generation of new therapies for breast and other cancers.
"The research we're funding through these Innovation Grants demonstrates that Canadian scientists are some of the most creative and committed in their fight against cancer," says Dr Siân Bevan, Director, Research for the Canadian Cancer Society. "We're thrilled to be able to support projects that have the potential to dramatically change the way we understand cancer and how we prevent, diagnose and treat the disease."
The Society's Innovation Grants program supports innovative, creative problem solving and unconventional concepts, approaches or methodologies in cancer research.
About the Canadian Cancer Society
For 75 years the Canadian Cancer Society has been with Canadians in the fight for life. We have been relentless in our commitment to prevent cancer, fund research and support Canadians touched by cancer. From this foundation, we will work with Canadians to change cancer forever so fewer Canadians are diagnosed with the disease and more survive.
Visit cancer.ca or call us at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).
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For more information, contact:
Sasha Anopina
Bilingual Communications Specialist
Canadian Cancer Society
Ron Geyer
University of Saskatchewan
Andrew Freywald
University of Saskatchewan
306- 966-5248

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