THE DIVISION OF NEUROSURGERY - OUR LABS
Cancer cells typically acquire the ability to grow when they shouldn’t, stimulate formation of blood vessels to ensure their survival, bypass cell cycle and apoptosis safeguards and find ways to exploit their microenvironment that enable them to migrate away and form tumours at distant sites.
Malignant brain and other central nervous system cancers are the second most common cancers in children. Despite treatment, overall five-year survival remains only at 60 per cent with survivors often suffering from treatment-related side effects. Therefore, investigation into the molecular events contributing to brain tumour pathogenesis will result in improved detection, diagnosis and therapy.
The James Rutka lab currently investigates the molecular mechanisms of brain tumour formation and migration. One research project focuses on the molecular genetic events that result in the sporadic occurence of medulloblastoma. Medulloblastomas frequently harbour genetic abnormalities such as isochromosome 17q and duplication of chromosome 7. In addition, many signalling pathways, important during development, are mutated in medulloblastoma. Genes important in keeping cancer at bay can also be silenced epigenetically through promotor methylation or by misregulation of micro-RNA (miRNA) mediated gene regulation. Investigators in the lab are determining. Visit the Rutka lab site for more.
The Peter Dirks lab has recently isolated and characterized a cancer stem cell from human brain tumours of different phenotypes that express neural stem cell markers and have stem cell-like behaviour in vitro and in vivo. These cells were isolated from both low grade and high grade primary brain tumours (astrocytoma, glioblastoma, ependymoma, medulloblastoma, anglioglioma) and represent only a small fraction of the total tumour cell population. Visit the the Dirks lab site for more.
The Michael Taylor lab uses the tools of forward and reverse genetics to better understand the underlying biology of medulloblastoma and ependymoma - two of the most common malignant paediatric brain tumours.
In forward genetic approaches, the normal cells that are thought to give rise to a cancer are agitated in a systemic fashion in an attempt to determine which genes, or signalling pathways promote malignant transformation. By randomly over-expressing genes in the cellular precursor of medulloblastoma, we hope to determine which genes are important to the initiation, maintenance and progression of medulloblastoma. This sort of functional genomic approach has recently been made feasible by the completion of the mouse genome project.. Visit the Taylor lab for more.