McMaster researchers to explore benefits of smart cell


Imagine a “designer” smart cell that scientists can implant in the human body. It secretes a cancer-fighting molecule that can target tumour cells and stop them from growing — and at the same time boost healthy cells' immunity. It's simple to administer, potentially safe and inexpensive, and can be used by any patient, since its special packaging protects it from rejection by the body.

That's the idea a Hamilton research team will begin to explore, thanks to a grant from the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative (CBCRI). Patricia Chang and her colleague Richard Austin at McMaster University will receive $50,000 to conduct the one-year study. Chang will focus on fighting the altered Her/2-neu gene, which is present in excess in many breast cancers. She will create cells that secrete the cancer-fighting molecule and test them on mouse models of human cancer.

“This is a highly innovative approach with the potential for exciting results,” says CBCRI executive director Marilyn Schneider. “Developing a new way to deliver an antibody to a tumour continuously and effectively would be of great benefit to women with breast cancer.”

Chang's project is one of seven for which CBCRI announced funding today as part of its third IDEA grants competition. A total of $341,167 was granted. IDEA grants were developed by CBCRI to fund innovative new research ideas that challenge current thinking or look at a problem from a new perspective. These small grants are awarded for one year, rather than the three years typically funded under regular operating grants.