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
SOURCE: MUHC Newsroom
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.”
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.”
The annual Department of Human Genetics Teaching Award is given to one member of the clinical faculty and one member of the research faculty to recognize their contributions in the teaching, supervision and mentorship of students.
This year’s winners were chosen from among several nominations submitted by students, residents and faculty members, and were announced at the Department meeting on March 14th and at the Graduate Student research Day on June 21st.
David Rosenblatt, MD
Patricia Tonin, PhD
Congratulations to the winners!
Please keep your ideas in mind for next year’s award nominees.
The Faculty Awards Committee:
Congratulations to the Winners of our Research Day Prizes:
Xiaoyang Liu – 1st prize, oral presentation
Jaeseung Kim – 1st prize, poster presentation
Juan Pablo Lopez – 2nd prize, oral presentation
Lena Dolman – 2nd prize, poster presentation
Gregory Boivin – 3rd prize, oral presentation
Jeremy Saban – 3rd prize, poster presentation
It is our pleasure to announce that Bartha Maria Knoppers, Director of the Centre of Genomics & Policy and Professor in the Department of Human genetics received the Order of Québec on June 7th, 2012 in Québec City. Please see her profile here.
David L. Rimoin, MD, PhD
The American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) Mourns the Loss of Founding President and Genetics Pioneer David L. Rimoin, MD, PhD
After a career that spanned nearly half a century, Dr. David L. Rimoin, founding president of ACMG and in many ways the founder of one of the most fast- paced specialties in modern clinical medicine, passed away on Sunday May 27, 2012 in Los Angeles of pancreatic cancer, which had only been diagnosed a few days before.
Dr. Rimoin was a giant in the field of medical genetics. He leaves not only an enduring legacy but also a void in the hearts of the many who loved him, including his beloved wife Ann of 32 years and their three cherished children, Anne, Michael and Lauren.
Clarke Fraser was inducted to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2012 http://www.cdnmedhall.org/list-name?year=2012
If you haven’t heard it already, Dr. Fraser was interviewed by CBC radio. The podcast can be heard here (fast forward to about 19 minutes 30 seconds) http://podcast.cbc.ca/w6/worldatsix.mp3
On April 24, during a ceremony at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, Mary Argent-Katwala, Director of Research at the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, presented the William E. Rawls Prize to Dr Nada Jabado, researcher at the Montreal Children’s Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at McGill University.
The Canadian Cancer Society wants to recognize “Dr Nada Jabado’s remarkable contribution to our understanding of brain cancers in children in the last decade,” Mary Argent-Katwala said at the award ceremony.
At the Montreal Children’s Hospital, Dr Jabado diagnoses fatal tumours. Brain cancers are the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among children because existing treatments are often ineffective. A caring doctor, Dr Jabado focuses on research to one day give hope to the children she treats. “What I am hopeful and proud of is that my work might one day help cure these cancers,” the researcher said.
Innovative in her research, Dr Jabado established a multidisciplinary team composed of pediatric oncologists, bioinformaticians, pathologists and basic scientists. She then equipped the laboratory with a database of childhood tumours, thanks to the collaboration of her peers in Canada and abroad.
To this day, her work has led to great progress in the understanding of brain cancers in children and paved the way for promising treatments. Dr Jabado’s team has most notably identified a genetic mutation present in 40% of glioblastomas, a type of brain cancer. It explains the resistance of glioblastomas to radiation and chemotherapy.
Her recent work has also been the subject of several articles, notably two that appeared in Nature magazine (January and February 2012 issues).
She also won the Maude Abbott prize which was established in 2010 by the Faculty of Medicine in order to recognize outstanding female Faculty Members who excel in Education, Research or Administration with a focus at the early career stage.
Congratulations to our new Human Genetics Students Society (HGSS) members for 2011-2012. We have students from many different sites, which should help with communication and organizing. Click here to find out more about our HGSS members!
The Department’s Human Genetics Graduate Student Research Day was held on June 2, 2011, with many of our students presenting their work, and featuring keynote speaker Dr. Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D. – Director, National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH.
Three students were awarded prizes for presenting talks, and four students were awarded for poster presentations. The third prize winner for presenting a talk was Justine Garner, a student in Dr. Jacquetta Trasler’s lab, and winner of a $200 prize.