CRI Funded Scientists

Michael Weinfeld, PhD, CLIP Investigator

University of Alberta

Area of Research: Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in North America, accounting for about 25% of all new cases of cancer. Although radiotherapy has shown clinical benefits, some tumors still retain the capacity to repair the DNA damage caused by radiation, which ultimately leads to tumor progression, spread and relapse. Moreover, as well as shrinking tumors, the effect of radiation has been shown to boost components of the immune system to recognize, attack and eradicate tumors. There is, therefore, the need to target certain proteins within tumors that are involved in repairing damaged DNA when tumors are exposed to radiation.

To this end, Dr. Weinfeld’s research is focused on developing an inhibitor against the DNA repair protein called polynucleotide kinase phosphatase (PNKP). Together with other DNA repair proteins, PNKP makes tumors resistant to the effect of radiation by repairing the DNA damage induced by radiation. In this study, he aims to further improve the therapeutic effects of radiation in boosting the immune system by inhibiting PNKP. In addition to making tumors more sensitive to the effects of radiation, he speculates that PNKP inhibition will potentiate the immune system to better recognize and attack tumors. So far, his results have supported this hypothesis, but more preclinical studies are needed to substantiate the claim. This study is promising as it will provide insights into the role of DNA repair proteins in limiting the positive impacts of immunotherapy and/or radiotherapy, and how inhibiting DNA repair proteins can improve breast cancer therapy.

Projects and Grants

The Role of Polynucleotide kinase/phosphatase (PNKP) in the cGAS-STING Pathway

University of Alberta | Breast Cancer | 2021

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