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SU2C Canada Cancer Stem Cell Dream Team: Targeting Brain Tumour Stem Cell Epigenetic and Molecular Networks

Peter Dirks, MD, PhD
Leader

Peter Dirks, MD, PhD

University of Toronto

Samuel Weiss, PhD
Co-leader

Samuel Weiss, PhD

University of Calgary

Research

Malignant brain tumors remain deadly, incurable diseases. The Dream Team focused on glioblastomas in adults and children, and on posterior fossa ependymomas of infants — both of which have a dismal outlook for patients and for which treatment options are limited. Researchers previously discovered that at the root of these tumors lies a relatively small population of cells, known as brain tumor cancer stem cells (BTSCs) that are able to grow the whole tumor and are skilled at evading therapy. To characterize these cells and provide new insights into BTSC biology, the team is taking a three-tiered approach: 1) analyzing BTSCs from patients using cutting-edge technology to understand their full biological profile; 2) testing a panel of drugs on these tumors to find promising candidates; and 3) performing drug testing in pre-clinical mouse models to predict efficacy in human patients.