A surprise advance in the treatment of adult cancers

Researchers at the RI-MUHC have made a discovery that could improve care for about 15% of patients with head and neck cancer linked to alcohol and tobacco use

Simon Papillon-Cavanagh, McGill University PhD candidate, Drs Nada Jabado and Jacek Majewski, PhD


A team of researchers at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) has found an epigenetic modification that might be the cause of 15% of adult cancers of the throat linked to alcohol and tobacco use. This is a first in the field of epigenetics and the researchers are hopeful that the discovery can blaze a path in the development of new, targeted, more effective treatments that could arise over the next few years.

“This discovery was absolutely unexpected since it seemed highly improbable that the kind of alterations of the epigenome that we had previously found in other types of tumours in children and young adults could also target an epithelial tumour like throat cancer that occurs only in adults,” explains Dr. Nada Jabado, a researcher at the RI-MUHC and one of the principal authors of the study published in Nature Genetics.

Head and neck cancers, also called oropharyngeal cancers or throat cancer often have devastating consequences. Standard treatments involve surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the side effects of these treatments are significant and relapses are common. That’s why oncologists are searching to develop more effective treatments that will be less harmful and have fewer deleterious effects. The discovery of this epigenetic modification opens new treatment possibilities. In fact, some promising drug molecules are already on the market for other illnesses and could possibly be tested for head and neck cancers as well as other cancers like multiple myeloma and lung cancer.

Dr. Jabado, who is also a pediatric hemato-oncologist, has hopes that this discover will have positive repercussions for pediatric cancers as well. “Now that we’ve identified this cohort of patients, we can move quite quickly since in the case of adults, as opposed to children, there are more patients and lots of clinical trials. The medicines could then be tested on children afterward.”

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Prof. Mark Lathrop re-appointed Scientific Director, McGill University Genome Quebec Innovation Centre

Our congratulations to Prof. Mark Lathrop on being re-appointed as the Scientific Director at McGill University Genome Quebec Innovation Centre.

Vice-Principle and Dean of The Faculty of Medicine, Dr. David Eidelman along with Vice-Dean, Dr. Mara Ludwig made the following announcement “It is with pleasure that we announce the re-appointment of Mark Lathrop, PhD, to the position of Scientific Director, McGill University and Génome Québec Innovation Centre, a position he has held since 2011, during which time he has helped strengthen our position as a hub for genomic research in Quebec and a leader nationally and internationally.

A native of British Columbia, Professor Lathrop completed his Bachelor of Science and Master’s degrees at the University of Alberta before obtaining his PhD from the University of Washington (Seattle) in Biomathematics. He then moved to France, where he was one of the founders of the Centre d’Étude du Polymorphisme Humain, which pioneered international collaboration on the human genome in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1993, Dr. Lathrop moved to the University of Oxford, where he was a Wellcome Trust Principal Fellow and Professor of Human Genetics, during which time he co-founded and was first Scientific Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, an institute created to apply genomic approaches to understanding the molecular basis of human disease. In 1997, he was asked by the French government to form the Centre National de Genotypage outside of Paris in Evry, which he directed until 2012.

Professor in the Department of Human Genetics at McGill, Professor Lathrop’s current research is focused on the use of the human genome sequence, and other information about the human genome, to understand the molecular basis of disease, and how these can be applied to individualize approaches to disease prevention and treatment. His work has been recognized with many honours throughout his career, including the French Order of Merit and the French Legion of Honour.”

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February 2017

  • February 22, 2017 at 8:00am  - Pediatric Medical Grand Rounds presents a talk by Dr. Reza Alizadehfar entitled “Fever and Inflammation of Unknown Origin: When to Suspect a Genetic Etiology (The Saga of the Autoinflammatory Syndromes)”. To be held at the MUHC RI Auditorium, Room E.S1.1129.
  • February 22, 2017 at 3:00pm – Mihaela Pupavac’s Ph.D. Oral Defence entitled “Next Generation Sequencing to Discover Genes for Mendelian Disorders”. Supervisors: Drs. David Rosenblatt & Jacek Majewski. To be held in the Stewart Biology Building, 1205 Dr. Penfield, Room W4/12.
  • February 22, 2017 at 4:00pm - McGill Department of Biochemistry presents a seminar by Dr. Wei Li, Postdoc at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute entitled “CRISPR Screens: Algorithms and Applications to Functional Genomics”. To be held in the McIntyre Medical Building, Martin Amphitheatre, Room 504.
  • February 24, 2017 at 9:00am - Scheduled Medical Genetics Academic Half Day activities. To be held at the MUHC Glen Site, Room B 02.9390.

Graphos workshop: Writing and Publication

The upcomingGraphos workshops focused on writing and publication, are offered free of charge but requires registration: www.mcgill.ca/graphos/workshops

Feb 21: Publishing and Peer Review

Mar 9: Strategies for Effective Outlining

Mar 21: Responding to Journal Reviewers: Getting through the R&R stage


Academic Job Search Boot Camp

Hitting the job market for faculty positions?

Applying for postdoctoral positions?

The Academic Job Search Boot Camp (offered in collaboration with the Experimental Medicine Graduate Student Society) is for those seeking information, tips and advice about either an academic PI position or a postdoctoral fellow position. These sessions will include a workshop by CaPS, and panels with academic PIs (who will also offer the perspective of faculty hiring committees).

Session 1: Academic Job Applications | March 2, 2017 | noon – 3:30 pm | EM1.3509, Glen site

(lunch will be provided to registered participants of session 1)

Session 2: Academic Job Interviews | March 16, 2017 | 3 – 5 pm | EM1.3509, Glen site

Session 2: Academic Job Interviews | March 31, 2017 | 3 – 5 pm | L7-140, MGH site

(coffee and snacks will be provided to registered participants of session 2)

Registration: click here (Please register for all the sessions that you plan to attend)

For more information visit https://involvement.mcgill.ca/organization/desjardinscentrerimuhc


Summer 2017 Internship Opportunity in Panama

Do you want to gain work experience with the United Nations? Are you passionate about topics of safety and security in Latin America? Do you enjoy extensive research and analytical writing?

The United Nations Office of Safety and Security is seeking an intern for summer 2017 to work in its office located in Panama City. Applications must be returning to McGill in fall 2017, and possess intermediate to advanced language proficiency in Spanish.

For more information, please see the internship posting or visit our website: https://www.mcgill.ca/internships/current-ion-internship-opportunities/undss-panama

For more info contact: Laura Di Maio (514-398-2916)


CALL FOR NOMINATIONS: GPS Graduate Mobility Award 2016-17

The Graduate Mobility Award encourages graduate students to study and conduct research abroad as part of their McGill degree program by defraying part of the cost of the international experience. The award, funded by the Government of Quebec, is available to all full-time thesis students enrolled in a graduate degree program at McGill who have been nominated by their academic unit and faculty to take part in a mobility opportunity. The mobility award is meant to contribute towards the completion of the student’s thesis. A limited number of Awards are available each year on a competitive basis.

Deadline: Rolling Submission. Submit your request to the Department of Human Genetics.

For information regarding eligibility and how to apply, visit here.


IRCM Conferences 2016-17



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