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Scientists at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre have discovered that blocking the master regulator of bone renewal stops osteosarcoma – the most common primary bone cancer in children and teens, and the malignant disease that was fatal for Canadian icon Terry Fox. 

The proof-of-concept findings, published online today in Science Translational Medicine, establish the importance and function of the bone master regulator, a protein known as RANKL, in bone cancer and set the stage to develop rationalized targeted therapy for patients, says principal investigator Dr. Rama Khokha, Senior Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Dr. Khokha is also a Professor in the departments of Medical Biophysics and Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto. 

"We now understand the molecular basis of how RANKL drives osteosarcoma and believe this new information could potentially be rapidly translated into the clinic as a new therapy for patients," says Dr. Khokha.

"There is already a clinically-approved RANKL-blocking drug currently being used to treat other bone diseases. The next step is to determine whether this particular drug could be adapted to treat osteosarcoma and improve outcomes for these patients. As there has been little improvement in treating this type of bone cancer for the past 20 years, we are eager to find out."

She adds that in the U.S., the National Cancer Institute has recently approved a Phase 2 clinical trial to test the drug in osteosarcoma patients whose cancer either recurs or resists treatment.

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It’s known as the most common cancer-causing protein, directly responsible for 30 per cent of all cancers and indirectly involved in virtually all cancers. For over 30 years, scientists have failed to successfully target it, but now researchers from U of T can turn this protein off with an experimental drug.

“For several decades, scientists have tried to turn off a protein called Ras,” said Michael Ohh, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology. “But despite their efforts, we ultimately haven’t seen much progress. In fact, it’s been coined the ‘undruggable’ protein.”

Dr. Yoshihito Kano (left) and Professor Michael Ohh

Dr. Yoshihito Kano (left) and Professor Michael Ohh

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Study in Science Translational Medicine identifies drug target and genetic pathway for graft-versus-host disease, a dangerous and common complication of bone marrow transplants. Study in Science Translational Medicine identifies drug target and genetic pathway for graft-versus-host disease, a dangerous and common complication of bone marrow transplants.

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In the first published results from a $386,000 National Cancer Institute grant awarded earlier this year, a paper by Scott Verbridge and Rafael Davalos in Scientific Reports has been published.

The paper — co-written by John Rossmeisl, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine  associate professor of internal medicine and neurology; Michael Sano, postdoctoral researcher at Stanford; and Virginia Tech Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics Ph.D. students Jill Ivey of Fayetteville, Arkansas and Eduardo Latouche of Valencia, Venezuela, — describes the researchers’ work on developing a new type of treatment for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and deadly malignant primary brain tumor.

Patients with glioblastoma have a five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent, Verbridge said.

“This statistic has not improved significantly in decades, and there is still no treatment option to preferentially target the glioma stem cells or diffuse infiltrative cells that lead to tumor recurrence after surgery, chemo, or radiotherapy,” Verbridge said.

The paper, “Targeted cellular ablation based on the morphology of malignant cells,” describes research into a new treatment option involving pulsed electric fields (PEFs) that is better at targeting and killing malignant cells while leaving healthy cells alive.

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cancer cells

ATLANTA—A method to better trace changes in cancers and treatment of the prostate and lung without the limitations associated with radiation has been developed by Georgia State University researchers.

Their findings were published Wednesday, Nov. 17 in Scientific Reports by Nature.

The researchers developed a new imaging agent they named ProCA1.GRPR, and demonstrated that it leads to strong tumor penetration and is capable of targeting the gastrin-releasing peptide receptor expressed on the surface of diseased cells, including prostate, cervical and lung cancer.

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