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SU2C Canada Cancer Stem Cell Dream Team: Targeting Brain Tumour Stem Cell Epigenetic and Molecular Networks

Team Leaders

  • Peter Dirks, MD, PhD
    Peter Dirks, MD, PhD
    Hospital for Sick Children
    Team Leader
    Full Bio
  • Samuel Weiss, PhD
    Samuel Weiss, PhD
    Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary
    Co-leader
    Full Bio

Overview:

The SU2C Canada Cancer Stem Cell Dream Team’s goal is to understand the abnormalities in cancer stem cells found in brain tumors, specifically glioblastomas in adults and children and posterior fossa ependymomas in infants. Team members are working to find vulnerabilities in these cells, to identify new drugs that may be effective against them, and to test these drugs in preclinical mouse models.

Malignant brain tumors remain deadly and incurable. This Dream Team is focusing on glioblastomas in adults and children and on posterior fossa ependymomas in infants. Treatment options for both tumor types are limited, leaving a dismal outlook for these patients.

Researchers previously discovered that at the root of these tumors lies a relatively small population of cells known as brain tumor cancer stem cells (BTSCs). These cells are resistant to known forms of therapy. When patients undergo treatment, these cells survive and regrow the whole tumor, causing a relapse.

To better understand these cells, the team is taking a three-tiered approach: 1) analyzing BTSCs from 70 patients using cutting-edge technology to reveal their full biological profile; 2) testing a panel of drugs on these tumors to find promising candidates; and 3) performing tests on these promising drugs in preclinical mouse models to predict efficacy in human patients.

Taking a multidisciplinary approach, the team is providing new insights into BTSC biology, offering a promising avenue by which to solve a long-standing problem. 

Scientific Abstract (PDF)
Team Progress Updates (PDF)

Team Roster

Peter B. Dirks
Hospital for Sick Children
Team Leader

Samuel Weiss, PhD
Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary
Co-leader

Cheryl H. Arrowsmith, PhD
University of Toronto
Principal Investigator

Gary D. Bader, PhD
University of Toronto
Principal Investigator

Amy A. Caudy, PhD
University of Toronto
Principal Investigator

Nada Jabado, PhD
Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre
Principal Investigator

Mathieu Lupien, PhD
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
Principal Investigator

Marco A. Marra, PhD
BC Cancer Agency
Principal Investigator

Trevor J. Pugh, PhD
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
Principal Investigator

Michael Salter, MD, PhD
Hospital for Sick Children
Principal Investigator

Michael D. Taylor, MD, PhD
Hospital for Sick Children
Principal Investigator

Michael D. Tyers, PhD
University of Montreal
Principal Investigator

Wendy Marie Durigon
Jessica’s Footprint, Guelph
Advocate

Fiona Coutinho
Hospital for Sick Children
Project Manager

Tracey Richards
Hospital for Sick Children
Project Manager


Publications
A Targetable EGFR-Dependent Tumor-Initiating Program in Breast Cancer
Savage P, Park M, et al. (2017)
Cell Reports 21, 1140–1149.

Fate Mapping of Human Glioblastoma Reveals an Invariant Stem Cell Hierarchy
Lan X, Jörg DJ, Cavalli FMG, et al. (2017)
Nature 549:227-232.