Taking a Close-Up Look at Proteins to Fight Childhood Cancer
Cancer is the leading cause of disease-related deaths in Canadian children beyond the newborn period. For one in every six children who suffer from the disease, there is no cure. As well, at least three quarters of childhood cancer survivors will suffer lasting effects of the therapy (or the illness) and require ongoing care. This creates a substantial life-long burden for both the individual and society at large.
As Canada Research Chair in Translational and Applied Genomics of Pediatric Malignancy, Dr. Philipp Lange is trying to find ways to eradicate cancer cells and protect the body from damage inflicted by cancer and treatment. To do this, he is asking a fundamental question: “What is it that makes cancer cells in each patient different and special from all other normal and healthy cells?” If we can answer this question, we can devise ways not only to find and kill cancer cells, but most importantly, to leave healthy cells untouched.
Lange and his research team are comparing the proteins between normal cells and cancer cells by extending genomics with proteomics, a technology that enables them to monitor all of the proteins in the human body. This technique allows them to detect more specific differences and understand how cancer grows, spreads and interacts with the rest of the body.
Lange hopes his findings will lead to the development of new diagnostic approaches and drugs. Ultimately, it could also enable more personalized and targeted cancer treatment, leading to a higher quality of life for patients and significantly lower costs to the health care system.