Biomedical Sciences Prof Receives Grant for Lung Cancer Research

October 30, 2013 - News Release

A new way of looking at a long-known molecule has drawn fresh funding for a University of Guelph scientist and could improve treatment of lung cancer, said the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) today in announcing Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November.

Prof. Roger Moorehead, Department of Biomedical Sciences, will receive an innovation grant worth $200,000 for a three-year study of the protein Akt, which plays a role in lung cancer.

Earlier CCS-supported research by Moorehead and his team on how genes affect development of lung cancer found that, contrary to scientists’ belief, not all forms of Akt promote tumour growth.

The researchers found that loss Akt2 increased lung tumorigenesis (production of a new tumour) while loss of Akt1 suppressed lung tumor development suggesting that Akt2 serves as a tumor suppressor while Akt1 promotes tumorigenesis.

“The only drug currently in clinical trials inhibits all three versions of Akt,” said Moorehead. “We want to determine if it is possible and better to utilize drugs that just target Akt1. It may be more effective to target one version.”

The team will utilize a transgenic mouse model to study lung tumorigenesis

“We will also be looking at cultured human lung cancer cells, but the mouse model will allow us to determine the efficacy of targeting one version of Akt in a more physiologically relevant environment,” he said.

The leading cause of cancer deaths in Canada, lung cancer will kill an estimated 20,200 Canadians this year, more than breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined. Five-year survival rates are only about 14 per cent for males and 20 per cent for females.

“I am grateful to CCS for this funding, because this support allows us to explore an unconventional idea that very few are examining,” said Moorehead. “Seeing opposing actions for different forms of this molecule is not widely accepted. It is crucial that we examine this view further, as it could improve treatment for lung cancer and help save lives.”

He has received a total of nearly $700,000 from the CCS since 2009.

“We’re committed to investing in innovative research that takes a bold approach to cancer research,” said Siân Bevan, CCS’s director of research. “This helps generate new ways to look at the cancer puzzle and find more effective therapies for patients, especially for hard-to-treat cancers such as lung cancer.”

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