Internationally renowned Mount Sinai scientist Dr. Jeff Wrana received The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal this month from Prime Minister Stephen Harper in honour of his innovative research efforts and discovery in cancer. The commemorative medal was created last year by the Governor General of Canada to mark the 60th anniversary of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and serves to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.
“Jeff is recognized internationally as one of Canada's leading and most exciting cancer researchers so it's truly wonderful that he is receiving this honour for helping to reduce the burden of this disease,” says Dr. Jim Woodgett, Director of Research at Mount Sinai’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute.
A Senior Investigator at Mount Sinai’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute and Professor at the University of Toronto's Department of Molecular Genetics, Dr. Wrana studies the molecular basis of metastatic cancer and seeks to understand the processes by which tumour cells spread. Having made significant discoveries related to colorectal and other cancers, he is currently focused on advancing research and care in breast cancer. Dr. Wrana holds a Canada Research Chair in Systems Biology and is the Mary Janigan Research Chair in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.
Recently, Dr. Wrana and his team at the Lunenfeld made a major discovery about the way that cancer spreads. In a study published in the journal Cell, the team discovered that proteins produced in normal cells near the environment of a cancer tumour influence the cancer’s ability to spread to other tissues of the body. One of the impacts of the study is the ability to target one of the proteins, called Cd81, to halt the spread of breast cancer and other cancers. The researchers discovered that normal cells surrounding the tumour secrete tiny fragments of cells called exosomes to help the tumour cells to spread.
Dr. Wrana’s innovations in cancer research include the development of a new tool that analyzes breast cancer tumours to determine a patient’s best treatment options. The technology, called ‘DyNeMo’ analyzes networks of proteins in cancer cells, and can predict with more than 80 per cent accuracy a patient’s chance of recovering from breast cancer. He also established a leading edge Robotics Facility at the Lunenfeld, enabling scientists to perform thousands of tests at a time and study gene function on a genome-wide scale.