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Accelerating Discovery Through Teamwork

Scientist, Dr. Marianne Koritzinsky, never shies away from a challenge. That’s why she chose to focus her research at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre on one of the deadliest and most insidious forms of cancer. “I became interested in pancreatic cancer specifically because it’s such a difficult disease to treat,” said Dr. Koritzinsky. “[My interest] is grounded in the dire need to understand this disease better, and to come up with new and better treatment strategies.” And she’s doing just that.

In May of 2021, Dr. Koritzinsky led a study that resulted in the discovery of a weakness in human pancreatic cells that can be used against the cells to kill them. Researchers showed that some pancreatic cancer cells are highly dependent or “addicted” to a specific protein. This addiction is vital for the cancer cell’s survival, thereby also making it a precise, potential target against the cancer.

The next step is to identify the “bullet”. “My team is working very closely with medical chemists and structural biologists to create a drug that would inactivate this specific protein,” said Dr. Koritzinsky. “This could lead to pancreatic cancer cell death without causing too many side effects in a patient.” If they’re successful in finding this drug, it could unlock a myriad of targeted treatment options for other forms of cancer. “We know that some ovarian cancers, head and neck cancers, breast cancers, glioblastoma brain cancers, and lung cancers are also addicted to this protein,” said Dr. Koritzinsky. “We absolutely have reason to think that [this drug] would be relevant for other disease sites.”

Revolutionary advancements in targeted cancer therapies like Dr. Koritzinsky’s are a team effort. “People [at The Princess Margaret] are extremely supportive of one another,” she said. “Everybody’s excited to collaborate, everybody wants to accelerate discovery…and that is extremely powerful in moving us forward as a research community.”

“[Cancer] is an incredibly meaningful problem that we’re working on, and a meaningful challenge,” said Dr. Koritzinsky. “None of it would be possible without the support of The Princess Margaret and the Home Lottery.”