Researchers make cancer target breakthrough

Researchers at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), in Montreal, have identified a new gene to combat cancer. In a new study, published in the on-line edition of the journal Clinical Cancer Research this week, the researchers document a reduction in the growth of both colon and lung cancer tumors with inhibition of the gene.

The new target gene is called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, or MTHFR. Researchers were able to inhibit the function of the gene by creating antisense-an exact opposite of a tiny section of the MTHFR gene. “MTHFR is involved in the synthesis of methionine-a critical nutrient necessary for growth of cancer cells,” explains Dr. Rima Rozen, principal investigator of the new study, and Deputy Scientific Director of the MUHC Research Institute. “By inhibiting the gene’s function, we were able to slow the growth of tumors.”

Researchers found that the antisense reduced lung and colon cancer tumors in both laboratory-based tissue cultures and in mice. “Discovering that the antisense works in animal models is a major step forward, and gives us hope that this might also work in humans,” explains Dr. Rozen.

The research, funded by Strida Pharma-a McGill University spin-off company-also indicated that the antisense was particularly effective in reducing cancer tumors when administered in low doses and in combination with established cancer drugs. “All drugs and antisense have some level of toxicity,” says Dr. Rozen. “An antisense that works in harmony with other drugs, and in such low doses, is a significant breakthrough in cancer research.”

About the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC)

The Research Institute of the MUHC is a world world-renowned biomedical and health-care hospital research centre. Located in Montreal, Quebec, the institute is the research arm of the MUHC, a university health center affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. The institute supports over 500 researchers, nearly 1000 graduate and post-doctoral students and operates more than 300 laboratories devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental and clinical research. The Research Institute operates at the forefront of knowledge, innovation and technology and is inextricably linked to the clinical programs of the MUHC, ensuring that patients benefit directly from the latest research-based knowledge.

About the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC)

The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. The MUHC is a merger of five teaching hospitals affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University–the Montreal Children’s, Montreal General, Royal Victoria, and Montreal Neurological Hospitals, as well as the Montreal Chest Institute. Building on the tradition of medical leadership of the founding hospitals, the goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field, and to contribute to the development of new knowledge.

About Strida Pharma Inc.

Strida Pharma Inc. is a spin-off company of McGill University that was founded in 2002 through an investment by MedTech Partners. Strida is developing antisense and small molecule therapeutics based on the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) enzyme. Strida has partnered with Tripos Inc. and NovaScreen Biosciences Corporation for the identification of small molecule inhibitors of MTHFR for development of promising drug candidates.

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Ian Popple MUHC

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