Cancer Prevention and Cancer Genetics

The Cancer Prevention and Cancer Genetics group studies novel cancer therapies and cancer prevention strategies. Group members are involved in epidemiological, laboratory and clinical studies to examine the factors that contribute to the development and progression of tumours. Research is conducted on the chemopreventative and therapeutic effects of phytochemicals, and the role of insulin-like growth factors in tumour pathophysiology and risk. The teams led by Dr. Michael Pollak and Dr. Walter H. Gotlieb (Biomarkers in Cancer Therapy) are combining their efforts to investigate the potential role of peptide hormones, particularly insulin and insulin-like growth factors, in cancer biology and as a target area for novel prevention strategies. They are particularly interested in the hormonal mechanisms that mediate effects of diet on ovarian cancer risk and prognosis.

Gene mutations play a key role in human cancer. Members of the cancer genetics group—Drs. William Foulkes and Marc Tischkowitz—are pursuing research into cancer predisposition genes. They seek to understand the fundamental genetic alterations occurring at the DNA level that are responsible for the initiation, development and progression of tumours, as well as those that influence responses to therapy. Drs. Foulkes and Tischkowitz were the leaders of a study demonstrating breast cancer predisposition caused by mutations in the PALB2 gene in families with a history of breast cancer. Mutations in PALB2 may be associated with a genetic “signature” leading to a higher-than-expected risk of breast cancer. This discovery, part of a study performed in conjunction with researchers from Universities in the US, UK and the Netherlands, may open new avenues for both identifying PALB2 mutation carriers and for treating women who carry these mutations.

Project Directors

William Foulkes - Associate Professor, Departments of Human Genetics and Oncology, McGill University
Hereditary cancer syndromes.

Michael Pollak - Professor, Departments of Medicine and Oncology, McGill University
The roles of peptide growth factors, particularly insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), in the pathophysiology of neoplasia.

Support research at the Lady Davis Institute - Jewish General Hospital