August 2019Research at the Lady Davis Institute

Dr. Michael Pollak to co-lead Metastatic Breast Cancer Dream Team

Dr. Michael Pollak, Director of the Stroll Cancer Prevention Centre at the JGH, has been chosen to serve as one of two leaders of a new Canada-wide team, aimed at translating fundamental research about breast cancer into effective treatment options for patients.

Dr. Pollak, who is a Senior Investigator in the Lady Davis Institute at the JGH, is joined by Dr. Nahum Sonenberg, Professor of Biochemistry and a member of the Goodman Cancer Research Centre at McGill University. Together they will head the Metastatic Breast Cancer Dream Team, supported by Stand Up To Cancer Canada (SU2C Canada).

Stand Up To Cancer, a charitable program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation in the United States, was launched in 2008 and provides funding for a variety of cancer-related “dream teams”. The Canadian branch of the organization has united with the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to invest up to $6 million in the new initiative.

A key goal is to accelerate the pace at which new therapies reach patients, with SU2C Canada enabling clinicians and basic scientists in various disciplines and from multiple institutions to form close collaborations.

“This is an opportunity to give patients access to the latest results of our laboratory studies,” says Dr. Pollak, who holds the Alexander Goldfarb Research Chair in cancer research at McGill.

Over the next two years, the Dream Team will work to develop a translational cancer research project that addresses prevention strategies for those at risk of metastatic cancer, while gaining a mechanistic understanding of metastatic progression. Approximately 40 patients will participate in the trial.

“This is a Phase I trial, so the patients will be carefully monitored for their safety profile and to verify that the therapy performs as anticipated,” Dr. Pollak explains. “The way the trial is designed, we are going to be able to refine our approach, so that we can make progress in treating metastatic disease by examining the patients’ blood, immune system, and tumour biopsies throughout the course of the trial.

“We are very grateful for the support being given to this project, and we appreciate that our work is recognized by the funding agencies as having a high priority. The JGH and McGill now count among the elite group of institutions supported by Stand Up 2 Cancer.”

While great progress has been made in treating breast cancer that is localized to the breast, truly curative treatments are not yet available for metastatic disease that has spread to the lungs, bones or other organs.

Other Dream Team members from the LDI include Dr. Wilson Miller, Dr. Sonia del Rincon and Dr. Claudia Kleinman. Additional key collaborators are based at the University of Alberta in Edmonton and the Cancer Control Agency of British Columbia in Vancouver.

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