Translational Proteomics and Systems Biology of Pediatric Malignancies

In Canada, cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death in children beyond the newborn period. Each year, more than 3,000 Canadian children, adolescents, and young adults are diagnosed with cancer. Childhood cancer survivors with secondary cancers in adulthood are the sixth most common form of adult cancer, and late effects of cancer treatment are estimated to cost $1 million per child over their lifetime.

An improved understanding of disease and treatment mechanisms at the systems level could improve our ability to treat cancer. This project addresses two fundamental questions in pediatric cancer biology by integrating advanced protein analysis of patient tumor biopsies with cell and computational models:

  1. Can we identify new drug and diagnostic targets for difficult-to-treat and relapsed cancers?  
  2. How can we improve treatment specificity for late effects?   

This project focuses on changes in proteins produced by cells with DNA mutations associated with cancer. A single gene can give rise to a whole spectrum of variant and modified proteins, or "proteoforms", through a process called post-translational modification. This process can happen differently for genes that bear mutations associated with cancer, giving rise to a noticeably different panel of proteoforms.

This altered pool of proteoforms is a potential source of cancer diagnostic markers and cancer drug targets. The protein experts in this project team aims to work with the genomics experts at the Child & Family Research Institute, Genome Sciences Centre, and BC Cancer Agency to synergistically study next-generation signature-based biomarkers, drug targets, and innovative drugs.

The ultimate goal of the project is to contribute to improved quality of life for childhood cancer survivors, reduce the socio-economic burden, and add to treatment options for children with cancer.