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2016 Funded Researchers

Cancer research covers a variety of activities and many areas of scientific study because cancer is not one disease but a multitude of diseases, each with its own subtypes and related disorders. When we think about finding a cure for blood cancers, we are really trying to understand and find effective treatments for 137 types of blood cancers and related disorders. 

Understandably, research progress happens slowly with consideration for every aspect of the research cycle. Each year, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada forms a new group of medical experts with the task of reviewing research projects taking place in Canada that show the greatest promise in advancing our understanding of different blood cancers, ability to test therapies and ultimately, to find cures. 

In 2016, our scientific review panel selected 16 research projects led by established and new scientists working in various cancer centres from coast-to-coast. Our Operating Grants focus on basic and translational research aimed at preventing, detecting and treating blood cancers.

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2016 Operating Grant Award Winners

Dr. Barabé

Dr. Barabé

Université Laval
Québec City, Québec Challenging the Leukemia Stem Cell Theory in Human Acute Leukemias Testing human leukemic cells in immunodeficient mice is the state-of-the-art approach to understand their in vivo behaviour and assay their engrafting and self-renewing capacities. In the past 20 years, the data generated in such models led us to believe that a subset of cells, called leukemic stem ...

Dr. Berman

Dr. Berman

IWK Health Centre
Halifax, Nova Scotia Elucidating pathogenesis and downstream targets in NUP98-NSD1 induced AML Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is an aggressive blood cancer requiring better treatments. We will use zebrafish to determine why children with a newly discovered gene abnormality have a particularly deadly form of AML. We will put NUP98-NSD1 and FLT3 human cancer genes into zebrafish. We will st...

Dr. Bhatia

Dr. Bhatia

McMaster University 
Hamilton, Ontario       Defining epigenetic determinants of MDS to AML towards novel therapeutics Leukemia impacts and affects thousands of Canadian families. However, developing effective treatments is limited by an incomplete understanding of how normal blood cells become leukemic. Using our recently created model system where normal blood can be progr...

Canadian Researcher Spotlight

Dr. Busque

Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont
Montréal, Québec Determinants of oncogenic penetrance of TET2 mutations in aging individuals The incidence of blood cancers greatly increases with age. However, there is no test to identify individuals at risk. We have documented mutation in a gene called TET2 in a small proportion of aging individuals. Since this gene is frequently mutated in blood cancers of older people...

Dr. Chan

Dr. Chan

Princess Margaret Hospital
Toronto, Ontario Role of Mitochondrial Biogenesis and Mitophagy in AML Stem Cells Acute myeloid leukemia is an aggressive type of blood cancer that kills over 1,000 people every year in Canada. Current therapies are often ineffective because they fail to kill a special type of cells known as leukemia stem cells. Our proposed studies will study how mitochondria, the powerhouses ...

Dr. Delisle

Dr. Delisle

Centre de Recherche l'Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont
Montréal, Québec Rational co-stimulation modulation for adoptive immunotherapy The treatment of blood cancer using immune cells that have been previously “educated” in the laboratory is highly promising. However, several limitations need to be overcome before this form of therapy reaches its full potential. This proposal is about modulating certai...

Dr. Eaves

Dr. Eaves

British Columbia Cancer Agency
Vancouver, British Columbia Role of MYC in a new de novo model of MYC-induced human AML The roles of specific gene alterations in patients’ leukemic cells are difficult to study because of many other mutations typically also present. The applicants have recently discovered a method of creating human leukemia experimentally by forcing normal human blood precursors to overe...

Dr. Humphries

Dr. Humphries

British Columbia Cancer Agency
Vancouver, British Columbia Regulation and interactions of the oncogenic transcription factor MEIS1 MEIS1 is a protein that controls gene expression. Overexpression of MEIS1 is involved in many blood cancers including leukemias. Using a powerful new tool to modify the genome of human or mouse cells we have modified the MEIS1 gene in both human leukemic cell lines and in a n...

Dr. Hoang

Dr. Hoang

IRIC, University of Montréal
Montreal, Quebec A developmental checkpoint in Pro-T cells and acute leukemia Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common childhood cancer and 25% of those are of T cell origin (T-ALL). Approximately 20% of childhood and 60% of adolescent and adult patients succumb to this disease. Furthermore, even though the disease is of good prognosis in children and treatment can ac...

Dr. Laposa

Dr. Laposa

University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario Inhibiting mitochondrial RNA polymerase in acute myeloid leukemia Acute myeloid leukemia on a particular cellular energy pathway for growth and viability. One enzyme, mitochondrial RNA polymerase, controls the level of this energy pathway. In the current application we propose an animal model and cell culture proof-of-concept study with a selective inhibitor of the ...

Dr. Reid

Dr. Reid

University of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia Optimization of autologous immune therapy using MRD expansion The presence blood cancer cells in children completing the first phase of treatment is a strong indicator that the disease may return later. The low numbers of the cells at this stage, however, have made it difficult to evaluate their sensitivity to other treatments. Here, we will deve...

Dr. Salmena

Dr. Salmena

University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario Investigating a novel role for INPP4B in leukemic stem cell maintenance Dr. Salmena’s research group has identified INPP4B as a biomarker to identify leukemia patients that are likely to fail therapy. Subsequently, they have discovered that INPP4B is important for maintaining the ‘health’ of the leukemia stem cells (LSC) that drive aggressive disease and relap...

Dr. Schimmer

Dr. Schimmer

University Health Network
Toronto, Ontario Blocking mitochondrial protein import and folding in acute leukemia The mitochondria are the energy producing factories in the cell. Most of the proteins in the mitochondria are made in the cytoplasm and transported into the mitochondria through the mitochondrial protein import pathway. In our preliminary data, we demonstrated that blocking mitochondrial protein...

Dr. Spagnuolo

Dr. Spagnuolo

University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario Estrogen receptor beta as a novel target in acute myeloid leukemia Patients with acute myeloid leukemia are faced with poor disease outcomes. Our research shows that targeting estrogen receptor beta selectively kills leukemia cells. The objective of this project is to determine how drug targeting of this receptor imparts this selective killing. The end goal of this wo...

Dr. Stagg

Dr. Stagg

Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal
Montréal, Québec Therapeutic targeting of adenosine in chronic lymphocytic leukemia We want to investigate a new approach for treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). We have shown that blocking adenosine makes the immune system better at destroying many cancer cells. We will use a mouse model of CLL and test the effect of blocking adenosine alon...

Dr. Zhang

Dr. Zhang

University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario N6-methyladenosine (m6A) RNA modification in Acute Myeloid Leukemia We study how mRNAs in cancer cells are modified by a mechanism called m6A methylation, and how such modifications contribute to the origin and progression of cancer. The outcome of this project will help develop novel cancer therapeutics targeting mRNA methylation in deadly cancers such as leukemia....