News at Medicine - June 2019 - New Canada Research Chair, new cancer treatments


New Canada Research Chair, new cancer treatments
June 18, 2019
The Faculty of Medicine has welcomed a new Canada Research Chair whose leading edge work will focus on developing new drugs for cancer treatments.

Dr. Michael Leitges has been named a tier one Canada Research Chair in Cell Signaling and Translational Medicine.
 
Dr. Leitges is also receiving $50,000  from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Fund (JELF) for critical infrastructure for his studies.
 

 PHOTO: RICH BLENKINSOPP
 

New cancer treatments

Dr. Leitges is joining Memorial from Norway’s University of Oslo.
 
He is establishing a new laboratory and research program at Memorial aimed at identifying new drugs for cancer treatment with less side effects. He brings more than 25 years of research experience to the Faculty of Medicine.
 

“One of the advantages of my research is the huge potential of interactions with other scientific groups.”— Dr. Leitges

 
Dr. Leitges’ research is in the field of signal transduction, with a focus on protein kinase C signalling in health and disease. He’s spent 15 years examining the functional analysis of individual protein kinase C isoforms during cancer development.
 
“I hope that my research group will be able to provide within the first seven-year time frame two or three new drug targets for a more specific cancer treatment and that at the end of the term we are ready to screen for such drugs. That is definitely my prime focus.”
 
He also says he’s eager to set up his research program and partner with members of the university research community.
 
“The appointment provides me the opportunity to re-establish a lab that is focusing on the identification and characterization of promising drug targets I earlier have linked to cancer development,” he explained.
 
“I hope that the scientific community at the Memorial University is very open and supportive for scientific collaborations since one of the advantages of my research is the huge potential of interactions with other scientific groups based on the broad functional spectrum of kinases. Kinases are intracellular proteins with pivotal roles for a healthy cell.”
 
“We’re very pleased that Dr. Leitges will be joining our team of researchers here at the Faculty of Medicine,” said Dean Margaret Steele. “His expertise will enhance our already robust cancer research program and further advance the health of the people and communities we serve.”

Dr. Leitges' partnerships with research colleagues has led to major breakthroughs in the understanding of diabetic disease conditions. The immune system was a focus of his research resulting in a number of international recognized publications. More recent work of his group focused on the initiation, progression and spread of cancer in particular colon, lung and pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Leitges graduated from the University of Cologne with a Master’s in Biology and a PhD in Molecular Biology, and continued his research through a post-doctoral position in Cell Biology at the University of Essen, Germany.
 
The Faculty of Medicine is now home to five CRCs.

Story by Jeff Green and Michelle Osmond