A horizon of hope for thousands of children

Leukemias are the most commonly diagnosed cancers in children aged 0 to 14 years and account for about 32% of childhood cancers in Canada. Leukemia is the second leading cause of childhood cancer death in Canada. For nearly 80% of leukemias, researchers notice a deregulation of the MYC, a gene that induces uncontrolled cell proliferation, thus promoting the development of cancer. As of now, there is no approved and effective treatment to target this type of alteration in leukemias.

In a study published in the Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research, Dr. Noel Raynal’s team observed that proscillaridin A, a known drug used to treat heart failure, could help treat leukemia. Dr. Noel Raynal work is opening a new promising avenue for developing strategies to block the expression of the MYC gene. The team has shown that when leukemia stem cells are treated with proscillaridin A,the MYC protein is damaged and they lose their ability to multiply and spread. Dr. Noël Raynal’s work is thus leading to a promising avenue for the creation of new therapies by blocking the action of the MYC gene.

The Cancer Research Society is proud to support such promising work that brings hope to thousands of young Canadians. In fact, Dr. Noel Raynal is among the 5 recipients of an Upcycle grant in 2018. Unique in Canada, this new Cancer Research Society program, on drug repurposing gave half-a-million dollars in research grants in 2018, including $100,000 to Dr. Raynal’s lab for this project.

"Each cancer is unique, and to increase the chances of survival, precision medicine is a promising way forward by developing patient-specific therapeutic strategies," says Dr. Noel Raynal, researcher at CHU Sainte-Justine and professor at Université de Montréal. Research on drug repositioning opens a new path toward innovative therapeutic options in the treatment of cancer. "

Over the past few decades, the survival rate of patients with pediatric leukemia has improved significantly. However, some patients remain resistant to current therapies and two thirds of patients have significant long-term side effects related to the toxicity of treatments (metabolic and neurological disorders, and sometimes secondary cancers).

"In the medium term, we hope to complete the preclinical characterization of this drug to eventually initiate clinical trials. Our ultimate goal is to identify more specific and less toxic therapeutic strategies for children with leukemia characterized by the MYC gene in order to improve survival rates and quality of life," notes Élodie M. Da Costa, doctoral student at Université de Montréal and first author of the study.
On behalf of all its donors, the Cancer Research Society sends its congratulations to each member of the research team, and wishes them success going forward.

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