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SU2C Canada Metastatic Breast Cancer Dream Team: Targeting mRNA Translation to Effectively Treat Metastatic Breast Cancer

Nahum Sonenberg, PhD

Nahum Sonenberg, PhD

McGill University, Professor
Gilman Cheney Chair in Biochemistry
Department of Biochemistry

Michael N. Pollak, MD

Michael N. Pollak, MD

Clinical Oncologist, Jewish General Hospital


This Dream Team is investigating a new way to treat metastatic breast cancer by interrupting the ability of breast cancer cells to manufacture the proteins they need to aggressively spread to organs beyond the breast. The new treatment, being tested for the first time in humans, strikes at the process that allows breast cancer to go from a localized problem to a potentially fatal disease. If successful, this work will open a new approach to the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.

Great progress has been made in the treatment of breast cancer, and disease that remains localized to the breast can be treated successfully in most cases. However, effective treatments are not yet available for breast cancer that has metastasized, or spread, to the lungs, the bones, or other organs. Metastatic breast cancer is driven in part by out-of-control production of proteins by the cancerous cells. This happens when the basic cell machinery that translates genetic instructions into functioning protein becomes dysfunctional and aggressively produces matter that healthy cells don’t need.

The Dream Team is testing a new, small-molecule inhibitor of the kinases MNK1 and MNK2, two enzymes that are key regulators of the messenger RNA (mRNA) translation process. The inhibitor works against the proteins needed for aggressive, metastatic behavior and may also help the body’s immune system fight the cancer. The agent being tested, eFT508 (tomivosertib), is known to inhibit the translational process but has not yet been applied to metastatic breast cancer. This first-in-human study is administering this novel treatment to metastatic breast cancer patients for whom the standard of care has not been effective, in the hope that it will halt or slow the metastatic process.

Project managers

  • Harvey W. Smith, PhD


  • ​ Poul Sorensen, MD, PhD, University of British Columbia
  • Lynne-Marie Postovit, PhD, University of Alberta
  • Vuk Stambolic, University of Toronto


  • Lynn Gentile
  • Candace Cook