SHUHENDLER

Adam Shuhendler – 2023 Dorothy Killam Fellow

Unravelling the paradox of oppositional enzyme hijacking towards new therapeutic approaches preventing the spread of cancer

University of Ottawa

Enzymes are the protein machinery necessary for life, but the inappropriate actions of enzymes, at the wrong time and/or the wrong place, drive disease. Dr. Shuhendler hopes to pinpoint strategies to thwart this hijacking activity of cancer, opening new routes to therapies preventing its spread.

Enzymes are the protein machinery necessary for life, but the inappropriate actions of enzymes, at the wrong time and/or the wrong place, drive disease. This is particularly true in cancer, where enzymes are hijacked and forced to do all sorts of inappropriate things towards assisting the cancer in growing and spreading. However, a hijacking paradox is emerging: that enzymes with seemingly opposing purposes, for example the building up and the tearing down of the glue that holds our tissues and organs together, can both be co-opted by cancer to help it thrive.

Using a new chemical platform, Dr. Shuhendler and team will map the opposing activities of these enzymes in animal models of disease using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (or MRI). This approach will allow Dr. Shuhendler to understand the relationship of these opposing enzymes in time and space over different processes key to cancer progression (for example tumor growth and metastasis). By unravelling the paradox of oppositional enzyme hijacking, Dr. Shuhendler hopes to pinpoint strategies to thwart this hijacking activity of cancer, opening new routes to therapies preventing its spread.

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