Dr. Aaron Schimmer Receives the Till and McCulloch Award – Award Lecture to be Presented Today on Drug Screening with Stem Cells to Identify Leukemia Therapies
MONTRÉAL, April 30, 2012 /CNW/ – Canada’s most coveted stem cell prize
will be awarded to a Stem Cell Network researcher who has used drug
screening to find a potential new treatment for a deadly form of
Dr. Aaron Schimmer, associate professor in the University of Toronto’s
Department of Medical Biophysics and a clinician-scientist in the
Princess Margaret Cancer Program/Ontario Cancer Institute at University
Health Network, has received the 2012 Till & McCulloch Award, presented
each year by the Stem Cell Network in recognition of the year’s most
influential peer-reviewed article by a researcher in Canada. Dr.
Schimmer will accept the award and present a lecture entitled “Novel
therapeutic strategies to target leukemia stem cells” as part of the
Till and McCulloch Meetings in Montréal at 2 p.m. this afternoon.
In an advance interview, Dr. Schimmer described his findings and their
potential as a new drug therapy in the treatment of leukemia.
“When you treat patients with leukemia, you can kill off 99 per cent of
their leukemic cells with just about anything, and yet, 80 per cent or
more of patients relapse,” Schimmer explained. “When we examined this
in a really objective way, the question was not how to kill off those
bulk cells – we already knew how to do that – but are we really missing
a critical component of what we should be targeting?”
Dr. Schimmer and his team eventually found that cutting off the energy
production capacity of bulk leukemia cells and leukemia stem cells was
a way of treating the disease, and that the compound tigecycline–an
FDA-approved antibiotic sometimes used to treat skin and abdominal
infections–was up to the task.
“Tigecycline appeared to work by essentially shutting down the energy
supply of the leukemia cells and stem cells,” said Dr. Schimmer.
“Essentially it is like producing a selective power outage in leukemia
cells but not normal cells.”
By focusing on FDA-approved drugs, Dr. Schimmer was able to produce
results that were quickly translated into clinical trials. Less than
two years passed between his initial findings and the commencement of a
phase-one clinical trial–a process that can otherwise take three or
four times that long.
“It is incredibly impressive how much progress Dr. Schimmer has made in
such a short period of time by using these stem cell screening
techniques,” said Stem Cell Network Scientific Director Michael
Rudnicki. “By identifying drugs which are already approved for human
therapies and testing their efficacy in treating diseases such as
leukemia, Dr. Schimmer has shaved years off of the clinical trial
process. It is likely that his discovery will improve the outcomes for
many patients in the near future.”
In 2005, the Stem Cell Network established the Till & McCulloch Award in
honour of Canadians Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch, whose
pioneering work established the field of stem cell research. The Award
had been granted at the Stem Cell Network’s Annual Scientific Meeting,
but became part of the Till & McCulloch Meetings this year.
The previous winner was Timothy Caulfield, who was recognized for his
global leadership in the field of stem cell ethics.
About the Stem Cell Network
The Stem Cell Network, established in 2001, brings together more than
100 leading scientists, clinicians, engineers, and ethicists from
universities and hospitals across Canada. The Network supports
cutting-edge projects that translate research discoveries into new and
better treatments for millions of patients in Canada and around the
world. Hosted by the University of Ottawa, the Stem Cell Network is one
of Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence funded through Industry
Canada and its three granting councils. www.stemcellnetwork.ca.
-- Skrtiç M, Sriskanthadevan S, Jhas B, Gebbia M, Wang X, Wang Z, Hurren R, Jitkova Y, Gronda M, Maclean N, Lai CK, Eberhard Y, Bartoszko J, Spagnuolo P, Rutledge AC, Datti A, Ketela T, Moffat J, Robinson BH, Cameron JH, Wrana J, Eaves CJ, Minden MD, Wang JC, Dick JE, Humphries K, Nislow C, Giaever G, Schimmer AD. "Inhibition of mitochondrial translation as a therapeutic strategy for human acute myeloid leukemia." Cancer Cell, 2011 Nov 15;20(5):674-88.
-- Podcast on High Throughput Screening - "Robots on Drugs", available: http://experimental-podcast.tumblr.com/post/20443247189/high-throughput-screening -- Interview with Dr. Aaron Schimmer - "The Stem Cell Fraction" available: http://scnblog.typepad.com/scnblog/2012/04/the-stem-cell-fraction-schimmer-leukemia.html
SOURCE Stem Cell Network