Understanding the Cancer Cell Genome
Around the world, cancer is an increasing health challenge. The Global Cancer Observatory estimated that in 2018 alone, there have been 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths. Meanwhile, the National Cancer Institute estimates that by 2030, the number of cancer cases worldwide will be more than 23 million.
Today, two-thirds of cancer patients in Canada can expect to survive five years. This is a big improvement from 1940, when the survival rate was only 25 per cent. We have come a long way—but more needs to be done.
As Canada Research Chair in Genomic Instability and Nuclear Architecture in Cancer, Dr. Sabine Mai’s goal is to better understand the role of the cancer cell genome in how cancer begins and progresses. She and her research team are investigating the three-dimensional spatial and nano-organization of the cancer cell genome. More specifically, they are using 3D conventional and super resolution imaging to identify cancer-specific structural changes of the genome.
Through basic, translational and clinical research studies in hematological and solid tumours, Mai and her team demonstrated for the first time that normal cells have a spatial genome organization that differs significantly from that of tumour cells. Moreover, different stages of the same tumour show measureable differences in their 3D nuclear genome organization.
Building on these findings, Mai is investigating novel mechanisms of nuclear genome remodelling and genomic instability in cancer and defining new structural nano-biomarkers of cancer. Ultimately, this research will lead to new treatments for cancer patients.