News at Medicine - October 2014 - Innovation grant from Canadian Cancer Society awarded to researchers

 
Innovation grant from Canadian Cancer Society awarded to researchers
October 27, 2014
Dr. Ken Hirasawa, an associate professor in the Division of BioMedical Sciences, has received an innovation grant from the Canadian Cancer Society. Dr. Ann Dorward, also an associate professor in the Division of BioMedical Sciences, is a co-applicant of the grant.
 
The grant, valued at $200,000 over three years, is funded through a generous donation to the Canadian Cancer Society from the estate of W. Gary Rowe, a lawyer, art collector and philanthropist born in St John’s. The first W. Gary Rowe Innovation Grant was awarded in 2013 to Dr. Mani Larijani, an associate professor in the Division of BioMedical Sciences.

Dr. Hirasawa works in the area of protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) fluorescence, which can be accumulated in cancer cells, but not in normal cells when treated with the photosensitizer 5-Aminolevulinic acid (ALA). The cancer specific PpIX fluorescence can be used to distinguish tumour from normal tissue, which has proven clinically useful during as fluorescence-image guided surgery. Moreover, red light irradiation of cancer cells with PpIX fluorescence generates reactive oxygen species and effectively induces cancer cell apoptosis, also known as photodynamic therapy (PDT). The grant is to aim to increase PpIX accumulation in cancer cells by inhibiting a specific cellular event. 
 
If successful, this strategy could help to effectively differentiate tumor tissue from normal tissue during surgery and to make PDT more effective on advanced cancer.


Research team members (from left) Dr. Maria Licursi, postdoctoral fellow; Ricardo Carmona, M.Sc. student; Dr. Hirasawa; Ema Yoshioka, M.Sc. student; and Leena Derwish, research assistant.