U of S researchers look for a new way to stop the spread of cancer

28 March 2013


Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are designing an entirely new approach which aims to stop the spread of cancer (metastasis). The major cause of cancer death is metastasis and finding new methods for blocking the metastasis is crucial for improving cancer therapy.

Antibodies have become the major breakthrough for cancer treatment .Using synthetic antibodies developed in a test tube, the researchers hope to induce the combination of two proteins in cells to block the spread of breast cancer, a major cause of death.  What makes this research novel is that it goes beyond breast cancer to trying to understand how to prevent the spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body.

Dr Ron Geyer and his co-investigator Andrew Freywald, Professors at the Departments of Biochemistry and Pathology, University of Saskatchewan, have received a $200,000 Innovation Grant from the Canadian Cancer Society to develop and test this promising new research.  Their project is one of 37 new Canadian Cancer Society Innovation Grants recently announced. These grants, worth over $7 million in total, support research that has the potential to significantly improve our understanding of cancer and generate new approaches to prevention, early detection and treatment.

While there has been progress in developing new therapies for breast cancer, the disease remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Last year, an estimated 22,700 Canadian women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,100 died from it. Most deaths are a result of the breast cancer cells spreading to other parts of the body.

Drs Geyer and Freywald will develop new synthetic antibodies for activating an entirely new target, the EphB6 receptor. In his previous research, Dr Freywald has shown that this molecule has a strong potential to prevent breast cancer from spreading by activating an anti-metastic protein in breast cancer cells EphB4/EphB6.

The team’s expertise in protein engineering will allow the researchers to produce “synthetic” antibodies that would enforce this interaction. They will explore the therapeutic properties of these antibodies in human breast cancer cells, to be followed by further testing in clinical trials. Their findings may lead to a generation of new therapies for breast and other cancers.

“The research we’re funding through these Innovation Grants demonstrates that Canadian scientists are some of the most creative and committed in their fight against cancer,” says Dr Siân Bevan, Director, Research for the Canadian Cancer Society. “We’re thrilled to be able to support projects that have the potential to dramatically change the way we understand cancer and how we prevent, diagnose and treat the disease.”

The Society’s Innovation Grants program supports innovative, creative problem solving and unconventional concepts, approaches or methodologies in cancer research.

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is the only national charity that supports Canadians with all cancers in communities across the country. No other organization does what we do; we are the voice for Canadians who care about cancer. We fund groundbreaking research, provide a support system for all those affected by cancer and advocate to governments for important social change.

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For more information, please contact:

Brooke Kelly

Communications Coordinator

Canadian Cancer Society

National office

Phone: 416-934-5321