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Leading Mount Sinai researcher is the first CIBC Scientist in Breast Cancer Research

October 24, 2014

Dr. Jeff Wrana

Dr. Jeff Wrana

Mount Sinai Hospital is thrilled to announce that Dr. Jeff Wrana has been chosen as the first CIBC Scientist in Breast Cancer Research at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute.  This scientist position was established through a generous $1 million donation by CIBC, and matched 1:1 by the Tanenbaum Research Endowment Matching Fund to create a $2 million endowed fund that will provide stable funding support for Dr. Wrana and his team.

Dr. Wrana is one of the world’s leading scientists revolutionizing cancer research, and ultimately, patient care. He believes cancer involves a complex network of pathways that work together to misregulate cells and cause disease. Dr. Wrana aims to expose the mechanisms involved in the development of these networks and to reveal new targets for treatments that would attack the entire disease network, not just individual hubs.

“Creation of the CIBC Scientist in Breast Cancer Research through this generous gift shines a spotlight on the incredible breast cancer research being conducted here,” says Dr. Jim Woodgett, Director of the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. “Our scientists are at the forefront of numerous advances in controlling cancer. In particular, Jeff Wrana has made critical discoveries in our understanding of metastasis, the process we need to stop if we are to prevent deaths from this disease.”

Dr. Wrana’s innovations in cancer research include the development of a new tool that analyzes breast cancer tumours to determine a patient’s best treatment options. The technology, called ‘DyNeMo’ analyzes networks of proteins in cancer cells, and can predict with more than 80 per cent accuracy a patient’s chance of recovering from breast cancer.  The first of its kind in the world, the DyNeMo software informs and empowers oncologists to prescribe the most personalized therapies to each patient, selected to match their tumour type and prognosis.

Dr. Wrana has also established a leading edge Robotics Facility at the LTRI, enabling scientists to perform thousands of tests at a time and study gene function on a genome-wide scale. The Robotics Facility is driving forward progress in cancer research at the institute and beyond.

Dr. Wrana is particularly interested in metastasis, the spread of cancer throughout the body, because it is responsible for 90% of cancer deaths. Today, when a breast cancer patient is diagnosed, they have a 98% chance of surviving the next five years if their tumour cells haven’t spread to the lymph nodes. Once cancer spreads, the five-year survival rate drops to 23%.

In light of this, Dr. Wrana and his research team attracted media attention for their recent major discovery about the way breast cancer spreads. They found that it is not tumour cells themselves that are responsible for the spread of the disease, but that metastasis is actually promoted by the normal proteins from nearby, healthy cells. This unique discovery defies the standard thought that only cancer cells are responsible for cancer spreading, and has the potential to transform the way cancer is treated.

Dr. Wrana is delighted to be the first CIBC Scientist in Breast Cancer Research. He currently holds the Mary Janigan Research Chair in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. He is a professor in the department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto. In 2006, he was inducted into the Royal Society of Canada. In 2010, he received a Premier’s Summit Award.