3 million in support from the Stem Cell Network to study new ways to use blood stem cells in the treatment of leukemia

Published on May 20, 2022

Guy Sauvageau, principal investigator at IRIC, hematologist and full professor in the Department of Medicine of the Faculty of Medicine of the Université de Montréal, is the recipient of major funding worth $3 million over three years. The project led by Dr. Sauvageau is composed of eight research groups, including those of Philippe Roux and Étienne Gagnon, both researchers at IRIC.

The funding is provided by the Stem Cell Network (SCN) through its new Horizon grant program. This program supports innovative research and the development of technological solutions with significant health and economic benefits over the next decade. The funded project aims to advance next generation therapies for the treatment of blood cancers and is entitled: “Engineered hematopoietic stem cells (eHSCs) as vehicles for next generation therapies”.

On the surface of healthy or cancerous blood cells, there are many proteins that play different roles to allow their functioning, their interaction with the environment and also their identification. The development of effective therapies against leukemia faces the challenge of determining the differences between these two types of cells: the goal is to specifically target cancer cells without affecting healthy cells.

This is the objective of recent treatments that rely on the use of genetically modified immune cells programmed to recognize proteins present only on the surface of cancer cells and not on healthy cells. The objective of the funded project will be to identify the proteins found specifically on the surface of leukemia cells and to design blood stem cell transplants that can be used as the basis for a new generation therapy to treat aggressive blood cancers.