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Rutka Lab

Rutka Lab

Dr. Rutka's Laboratory Research

Typically cancer cells 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 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 the role of epigenetics, genetic aberrations and deregulated miRNA expression in medulloblastoma.

Malignant glioma is the most common primary brain tumour. Its ability to invade the surrounding brain parenchyma is a leading cause of tumour recurrence and treatment failure. Cytoskeletal GTPases play critical roles in cell motility and migration. Previous work in our laboratory has identified alterations in the expression of upstream regulators of GTPases known as Guanine nucleotide Exchange Factors or GEFs. Our lab is now developing a system to target these proteins involved in glioma invasion. In collaboration with the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the University of Toronto Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, we are designing a nanoparticle based delivery system as a novel approach to treat gliomas.