Dr. Aaron Schimmer

Dr. Aaron SchimmerDr. Aaron Schimmer is an example of what can be achieved when you combine an academic education that includes both a medical degree and a PhD in molecular biology with a knowledge-rich environment like OCI, plus a busy clinic where you can continue to see leukemia patients one day a week. ‘Translational research’ is about fast-tracking findings from the laboratory to the clinic, and taking observations from the clinic and feeding them back to the basic scientists. Dr. Schimmer’s lab and the academic medicine he is involved in epitomizes the term translational research.

He has several promising compounds in clinical trials being conducted at The Princess Margaret. His lab identified XIAP as an important target for drug development. XIAP antisense (an XIAP inhibitor) has the ability to kill cancer cells without damaging normal cells. It is being used to treat both acute and chronic leukemia, and shows good potential with other types of cancers such as prostate.

What is especially encouraging to see in the work being done by Dr. Schimmer is the partnerships he has developed with industry. In the case of XIAP antisense, he has teamed up with Aegera Therapeutics in Montreal. They also have expertise in this area, and have the facilities to manufacture the compound efficiently.

Dr. Schimmer is also a strong proponent of what he calls ‘drug recycling’ where off-patent drugs are screened and tested to see what effects they have on cancer targets. One such drug, clioquinol, is being formulated into ‘pill form’ by PharmaScience in Montreal in preparation for a clinical trial planned within the next year. This approach to drug development can be successful and highly efficient, as the toxicity and side effects related to the use of the drug in humans is already documented and well-understood.

Dr. Schimmer is the author of over 55 papers, holds three patents, and is the principal investigator on five clinical trials of novel agents targeting the cell death pathway. He has received over 30 awards and honours for academic achievement including an award from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation for the best young scientists. In 2007, he was named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40.