2017 Invest in Research Winners

Dr. Aaron D. Schimmer
Targeting the “Garbage Disposal System” in Leukemia Cells

Cells make waste that must be disposed of properly by “tagging,” a process like putting garbage into a garbage bag. When a cell can’t dispose of waste properly, it will eventually die. While blocking this “garbage disposal system” has shown promise with some cancers such as multiple myeloma, Dr. Schimmer and his team are working on targeting the enzyme that puts the cell’s garbage into the garbage bags. This method has already shown promise in killing leukemia cells in petri dishes and in mouse models without harming normal cells or organs. The team is now collaborating with Takeda Pharmaceuticals to develop the world’s first drug of this nature and start a clinical trial to treat patients with relapsed and refractory acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Dr. Vuk Stambolic
Towards a Molecular Mechanism of Pancreatic Cancer Association with Hyperinsulinemia

The global obesity epidemic has led to an increased incidence of many diseases, including cancer. Obesity can increase the body’s level of insulin and lead to the development of diabetes. In pancreatic cancer – a disease that remains practically incurable – increased insulin and diabetes are associated with greater risk, aggressiveness and disease recurrence. In this project, Dr. Stambolic will collaborate with UHN’s PanCurX team (led by Dr. Steve Gallinger), that has been studying DNA changes in patients with pancreatic cancer. Dr. Stambolic’s new project will build on this work to identify how increased insulin and diabetes affect pancreatic cancer on a molecular level.