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Bringing cancer out of hiding - A Sherbrooke researcher funded by the Canadian Cancer Society removes the “cloak of invisibility” from cancer cells

04 September 2014

Sherbrooke -

Thanks to research at the Université de Sherbrooke funded by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), the immune system may recognize cancer cells more easily, which could lead to new treatments.

Cancer knows how to hide from the immune system, that is, the body’s defence system. Fortunately, cancer cells could soon lose their “cloak of invisibility” through the work of Dr Subburaj Ilangumaran, an immunotherapy specialist at the Université de Sherbrooke. Immunotherapy is a treatment that stimulates or enhances the immune system to protect the organism.

Dr Ilangumaran and his team’s work on the NLRC5 protein appears to be very promising. The protein is present in most types of cancer and controls the production of several other proteins necessary for the “immune visibility” of cancer.

This research could give rise to additional cancer treatments. “Chemotherapy and radiation therapy work in the short term,” says the researcher. “By facilitating the detection of cancer cells by the immune system, we may be able to reduce the risk of recurrence and offer a more long-term treatment.” This novel idea was identified as one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the year 2013 by the prestigious Science magazine.

Dr Ilangumaran is one of the 14 researchers in Quebec who received a Canadian Cancer Society’s Innovation Grant. Among them is also Vanessa Dumeaux, of McGill University, who is studying the body’s response to the presence of a tumour and how this influences the course of the disease.

Poop that lights up when cancer is present

In total, some 51 researchers were awarded $10 million by the Canadian Cancer Society. Of these, two McMaster University researchers are currently developing what could become an inexpensive and simple test to detect colorectal cancer. Dr Yingfu Li, biochemist, and Dr Bruno Salena, gastroenterologist, are developing DNAzymes that will become fluorescent upon contact with cancer markers in stool samples. This could one day become a non-invasive alternative to colonoscopy and help treat cancer at an early stage to increase the chances of recovery.

Every day, the Canadian Cancer Society works to save more lives. With the support of thousands of Quebecers, donors and volunteers, we fight to prevent more cancers, enable our researchers to make more discoveries, and help more people touched by the disease. Let’s save more lives. Visit cancer.ca or call us at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

André Beaulieu

Spokesperson and Senior Advisor, Public Relations

Canadian Cancer Society

Quebec Division

Phone: (514) 393-3444