Volume 93, Issue 82

Tuesday, March 7, 2000


VP candidates announced

American mag features Western's Fairs

Homework needed on exchanges

Wallin makes Western's list of honourables

U of T cancer research spreads

Library does its research

Grand Am theft auto



Caught on campus 1

Caught on campus 2

Caught on campus 3

Caught on campus 4

U of T cancer research spreads

By Rachel De Lima
Gazette Writer

Researchers at the University of Toronto may be one step closer to stopping cancer, now that they have successfully slowed its growth in mice.

Groundbreaking research, conducted at Mount Sinai Hospital's Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute in Toronto, has identified a gene responsible for slowing the growth of cancerous tissue. The research will be published in the March issue of Nature Medicine.

Jim Dennis, professor of molecular and medical genetics at U of T and senior scientist at the Samuel Lunenfeld Institute, said he led the research team of six people. He explained the research focused on sugar and carbohydrate molecules located on the surface of cancer cells. These molecules enable cancer cells to grow and spread rapidly to other tissues, such as the lungs and brain.

"We found that levels of a certain sugar chain known as Mgat5 were elevated in samples of breast, skin and colon cancers," Dennis said. "By blocking the gene that synthesizes Mgat5 in mice, we found the tumours metastasized, or spread at five per cent of their normal rate, while their growth was reduced to 20 per cent."

Dennis said the team observed an approximate 80 to 95 per cent reduction in breast cancer growth and metastasis to the lungs. He added Mgat5 gene blocking could be considered as a treatment option, due to its dramatic reduction of cancer growth rates.

Alan Bernstein, research director of the institute, said he agreed Mgat5 was clearly a key gene for determining the characteristics and development of cancer cells. "What we've been interested in for a long time is the role of [these sugar molecules]. This research definitely points to cancer therapy targeting these pathways, as opposed to other methods explored by different research," Bernstein said. He stated research funding was provided by grants from various institutions, including the National Cancer Institute of Canada.

Robert Phillips, executive director of the NCIC, said the research was a key to understanding how and why cancer cells grow. "This is an exciting and novel operation and suggests some approaches for treatment," Phillips said. He added while no straightforward therapies have been developed, he was pleased with the new possibilities resulting from the research.

Dale Laird, Western professor of anatomy and cell biology, said he was also enthusiastic about the findings. "The results look quite dramatic," he said. However, Laird said while this technique was clearly effective in mice, more research was required with respect to humans, if new avenues of cancer treatment were to be found.

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