New chemical tools to diagnose and treat disease

Medical advances have played a fundamental role in dramatically increasing life expectancy in Canada and around the world. This has created challenges for the health-care system as a number of diseases exhibit increased incidence with age. Two examples include Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and cancer; cancer is now the leading cause of death in Canada. Continued research into the causes and progression of the disease is sure to provide advances in our ability to treat and eventually prevent the disease, with great benefit to our society and economy. The overall goal of Dr. Tim Storr’s biomedical research program is to develop new chemical tools to diagnose and treat the disease.

Storr’s team is focusing their research efforts in two areas: metal-overload diseases, and cancer. Many metal ions are essential to our existence, yet under certain conditions can become toxic. The team is currently studying the role of excess metal ions in the development of AD and Wilson’s disease (WD). The increased incidence of AD, and the lack of effective treatment strategies, underscores the pressing need for research into the causes, and the development of new therapeutic options. Storr’s team is investigating a new approach to AD treatment in which drug molecules are activated in the presence of excess metal ions, allowing for selective therapy. At the same time they are applying this treatment strategy to WD, a genetic metal overload disease in which excess metal ions accumulate in the liver. The overall goal is to bring forward new treatments for metal overload diseases that are generated at the site of need and only when excess metal ions are present.

Storr’s team is also applying chemical tools to cancer by developing imaging agents that allow for the early detection of the disease, and the ability to monitor treatment regimens. This information is key to a successful patient outcome, and the group is currently investigating differences in the energy needs of normal and cancerous tissue. Working at the interface of chemistry, biology, and medicine, this research promotes investigation across disciplines towards the design and testing of innovative disease treatments.