In a major research initiative funded by The Terry Fox Foundation, Claude Perreault, Canada Chair in Immunobiology at the Institute of Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of the Université de Montréal, has succeeded in developing a new approach to eradicate malignant melanoma tumours in mice. The findings of Dr. Perreault and his research team are reported in an article just published in the online edition of Nature Medicine, and soon to be published in the print edition of the publication.
In brief, the method developed by Perreault consists of administering T-lymphocytes – cells whose function it is to recognize and destroy abnormal cells – from a healthy mouse donor to mice with cancer. These lymphocytes are pre-immunized against a specific antigen (H7a) present in host mouse cancer cells. Although the target antigen is found in some of the host’s healthy cells, the treatment does not cause any side effects because the anti-H7a lymphocytes cluster almost exclusively around the tumour site where they are attracted to the molecule VCAM-1 present on the blood vessels that irrigate the tumour. The T-lymphocytes produce interferon gamma and perforine/granzyme to eradicate cancerous cells.
"We are very pleased with the insights yielded to date from this research project which our team initiated in 2003, explains Dr. Perreault. Thanks to another five-year grant from the Canadian Cancer Society, we have moved on directly to explore the cancer-curing potential of this immunotherapeutic method in the treatment of human melanoma. We may be only a few years away from testing the application on human beings. The prospect of this work leading to the development of an effective, nontoxic and non-invasive therapy against certain types of cancer for broad clinical use is exciting for every basic research students, scientist and doctors working on this project."
"Malignant melanoma is a devastating disease, affecting 4,300 Canadians this year and leading to 880 deaths. In fact, melanoma rates are increasing for both women and men," said Dr. Michael Wosnick, executive director of the National Cancer Institute of Canada, the research arm of the Canadian Cancer Society and The Terry Fox Foundation. "For these reasons, these results are promising and if proven successful in human clinical trials, this therapy could have a tremendous impact on the treatment of this disease."
About the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC)
IRIC is an internationally-competitive systems biology research centre dedicated to cancer research. It is led by a group of elite scientists from Canada, Europe and the United States and engages in ambitious cross-disciplinary collaborations to tackle some of the greatest obstacles to human health we are faced with today. IRIC opened its doors at the heart of the University de Montréal campus in spring 2005 and is expected to double in size over the coming years, bringing together some 40 research teams -- for a total of some 500 scientists, postdoctoral trainees, graduate students, professionals and administrative staff -- by 2008.
About the National Cancer Institute of Canada
Funded by the Canadian Cancer Society and The Terry Fox Foundation, the National Cancer Institute of Canada is the longest-standing and most prestigious Canadian research organization devoted to advancing cancer control. This year, the Institute is providing $63 million to support excellent cancer research and related programs across the country.
About Université de Montréal
Founded in 1878, the Université de Montréal, with its two affiliated schools, the École Polytechnique and the HEC Montréal, is now the largest university in Quebec and the second largest in Canada. With over 55,000 students from around the world and some 10,000 employees, the Université de Montréal awards close to 10,000 diplomas at every university level. Deeply rooted in Montreal and dedicated to its international mission, the Université de Montréal is one of the top universities in the Frenchspeaking world.
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