A promising discovery

Published in the scientific journal Cell Reports, a biomedical study conducted jointly by the teams of Dr. Frédérick Antoine Mallette (HMR/Université de Montréal) and Dr. Stéphane Richard (McGill University/Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research) has highlighted a major finding regarding a compound involved in the development of pancreatic cancer.

“The work of doctoral student Mathieu Neault has shown that a compound called miR-137 is often lost in patients with a pancreatic tumour,” explained Dr. Mallette, an immuno-oncology researcher at the HMR Research Centre and the study’s lead author. Compound miR-137 plays a role in a defence mechanism that blocks the formation of cancer. The loss of the compound, in combination with other phenomena observed in cases of pancreatic tumours, fosters the development of cancer.

A compound that is cause for hope

This constitutes a real breakthrough given that the work carried out so far has enabled scientists to demonstrate that the restoration of “normal levels of miR0137 in the cancer cells” keeps them from proliferating and, as a result, protects cells.

“What we need to do now is gain a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the loss of miR-137 so as to develop therapeutic strategies that will awaken the miR-137 that is present in tumours but dormant. Using certain drugs or identifying a way to deliver the compound to patients’ affected cells are two avenues worth exploring,” said Dr. Mallette.”

This discovery is all the more important given that this aggressive, rather rare and relatively unknown type of cancer has one of the direst prognoses—the survival rate has not improved in the past 40 years. And according to the Canadian Cancer Society, the odds of surviving more than five years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are slim.

“Without this essential support, we would not have been able to identify the mechanisms involved in pancreatic cancer. For this, I am extremely grateful to the Foundation.”

The HMR Foundation: providing researchers with vital support

At a time when funding for basic research in Quebec and the rest of Canada has reached a historic low, Dr. Mallette is very pleased to be able to count on the support of the HMR Foundation, which gave HMR $3 million for research in 2015. Learn how you can donate to the HMR Foundation.

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