Important advance in the treatment of cancer and viral infections: Montreal-based scientists uncover a new anti-cancer, anti-infection response control mechanism



    MONTREAL, Jan. 18 /CNW Telbec/ - Dr. André Veillette, a researcher at the
Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM), and his team led by
postdoctoral fellow Dr. Mario-Ernesto Cruz-Munoz, will publish in the upcoming
issue of the prestigious journal Nature Immunology of Nature Publishing Group.
This discovery could have a significant impact on the treatment of cancers and
infectious diseases. Current treatments frequently achieve only limited
results with these types of diseases, which affect hundreds of thousands of
Canadians.
    Dr. Veillette's team identified one of the basic mechanisms controlling
NK ("natural killer") cell activity. Produced by the immune system, NK cells
are responsible for recognizing and killing cancer cells and cells infected by
viruses, such as viruses causing hepatitis and herpes. NK cell deficiency is
associated with a higher incidence of cancers and serious infections. "Our
breakthrough, comments Dr. Veillette, demonstrates that a molecule known as
CRACC, which is present at the surface of NK cells, increases their killer
function." Using mice, the researchers have shown that CRACC greatly improves
the animals' ability to eliminate cancer cells such as melanoma (a skin
cancer) and lymphoma (a blood cancer). Mice lacking the CRACC gene, generated
in Dr. Veillette's laboratory, were found to be more susceptible to cancer
persistence. Conversely, stimulation of CRACC function was found to improve
cancer cell elimination. Thus, stimulating CRACC could boost NK cell activity,
helping to fight cancers. In addition, it could improve the ability to fight
infections, which are also handled by NK cells.
    Increasing the activity of CRACC by gene therapy or drugs could become an
option in the future to stimulate the killer function of NK cells, and to
improve their capacity to destroy cancer and virus-infected cells. These
approaches could be used in combination with chemotherapy and radiotherapy to
increase the effectiveness of anti-cancer treatments. Teams of scientists
around the world have been trying for many years without success to develop
methods to increase NK cell activity. In this light, the discovery of Dr.
Veillette's team opens new avenues for the treatment of cancers and viral
infections.
    This publication constitutes another significant milestone for Dr.
Veillette, an internationally renowned immunologist. The article, which is
slated for online publication on January 18 in Nature Immunology, gives
undeniable evidence for the stimulatory effect of CRACC in NK cells. It is the
product of over four years of intensive research by Dr. Veillette's team. This
work was supported by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
(CIHR), the Canadian Cancer Society and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
(HHMI).

    References for this article are available at:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.138/ni.1693 or
    www.nature.com/ni/journal/vaop/ncurrent/index.html

    Dr. André Veillette is Director of the Molecular Oncology Research Unit
at the IRCM. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Signaling in the Immune
System. He is an International Scholar, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)
and a fellow of the RSC: The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of
Canada. Dr. Veillette is also Professor at the Université de Montréal and
Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University.

    Established in 1967, the IRCM (www.ircm.qc.ca) now has 35 research units
specialized in areas as diverse as immunity and viral infections,
cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, cancer, neurobiology and development,
systems biology and medicinal chemistry, clinical research and bioethics. It
has a staff of more than 450 people. The IRCM is an independent institution,
affiliated with the Université de Montréal and has built, over the years, a
close collaboration with McGill University.




For further information:

For further information: André Veillette, M.D., FRSC, Director of the
Molecular Oncology Research Unit, (514) 987-5561, Andre.Veillette@ircm.qc.ca,
www.ircm.qc.ca/fr/recherche/statique/unite10.html; Lucette Thériault,
Communications Director, (514) 987-5535, lucette.theriault@ircm.qc.ca,
www.ircm.qc.ca

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Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM)

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