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The breakthrough in children's cancer treatment made by a U of M lab

A University of Manitoba lab has found what it believes is an innovative way to treat a form of childhood brain cancer.

The aggressive type of tumour is largely considered to be "undruggable," but a recent study may have found a workaround.

A child with group 3 medulloblastoma may face surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and potentially a life plagued by side effects from that treatment.

U of M assistant professor of pathology Tanveer Sharif is looking for a less toxic treatment for a type of childhood tumour he says hasn't had any advancements in more than a decade.

Sharif said a bad protein called "MYC" (pronounced "mick") appears all over the tumour's cells, but can't be targeted by drugs due to its disoriented chemical structure. "The binding pockets which are required for our drugs to bind on it are not there so we can't target that," Sharif said.

In a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications, Sharif's lab discovered a potential workaround. He said their proposed new therapy instead targets the cell's metabolism which is responsible for making the protein stable.

"What we have found is that when we target those specific steps of the metabolism we are able to get rid of that protein," said Sharif.

The approach is expected to be used in clinics because it crosses the blood-brain barrier, meaning the potential future drug can access the brain.

Sharif said the study shows "tremendous results" in shrinking tumours in mice. His lab is now looking to collaborate with others on their breakthrough and see if the effects are amplified when used in combination with radiation and chemotherapy.

"If we see that, I think that would be huge because that means we would be able to decrease the dose of those toxic chemotherapies," Sharif said.

He added the MYC protein is also found in other cancers, and the approach could have treatment impacts beyond childhood brain tumours. Top Stories

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