A Canadian student has made a groundbreaking discovery that could represent a major milestone in the fight against cancer.
Caitlin Miron, a PhD student in Queen’s University’s chemistry department, has identified a chemical compound that has the potential to prevent the metastasis of cancer cells. This compound, which Miron describes as a “superglue,” binds to a four-stranded DNA structure called a guanine quadruple and stops a cancerous cell from growing or spreading.
“Think of a necklace as a DNA chain and imagine beads that move freely down the chain until they hit a knot in the necklace. The beads moving down are the cell machinery that’s going to process parts of the DNA, and translate it to proteins that will have [cancerous] effects in cells and tissues,” she said in an interview with Global News.
“We’ve essentially found a superglue that keeps the ‘knots’ in place and prevents the ‘beads’ from reaching the section of DNA where they can grow and spread cancer cells.”
The discovery itself as is impressive as the potential implications – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau even tweeted about the milestone.
Incredible news in the field of cancer research this week – congratulations to the Canadian PhD student Caitlin Miron for her groundbreaking work!
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) November 24, 2017
Scientists have apparently spent up to three decades exploring how quadruplex binders could be used as a treatment for cancer. Though some compounds have yielded encouraging results, Miron’s research has shown the most promise to date.
It’s really exciting. It’s exciting to be on the forefront of this field,” she said. “There are other quadruplex binders out there, but what we’re seeing is that ours is very high-performing.”
Mitacs, a non-profit national research organization that manages and funds research and training programs for students, has honoured Miron with the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation.
It’s important to note that this progress is very much in its infancy. Miron’s research team has now filed a patent for the work, which will be formalized in about a year. As for commercial development, that stage is still five to eight years away. The team will now continue to work on using the compound to specifically target cancer cells.
With nearly half of Canadians expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, Miron’s research couldn’t materialize fast enough.