National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) fellow Dr. Paul Fisher has been instrumental in NFCR’s mission to combat metastasis, a major cause of cancer morbidity. He has dedicated his career to this mission and recently published a game-changing study that may alter the lives of many – especially those with breast and prostate cancer.
Dr. Fisher’s research focuses on a daunting challenge facing clinicians and cancer patients. Namely, identifying, treating, and monitoring cancers once they have spread (or metastasized) from the primary tumor. His efforts have led to the development of novel technologies that simultaneously detect, diagnose, and treat tumors – also known as a theranostic approach.
Dr. Fisher’s latest work uses an engineered cancer therapeutic virus, or a virus specifically designed to kill cancer cells. The theranostic approach leads the virus to the cancer cell–where it replicates itself until the cell dies without causing any harm to healthy cells, as seen in chemotherapy treatment. The most amazing part? Dr. Fisher and his team are now using an imaging gene to map where cancer is within the body essentially.
The imaging gene, known as luciferase, allows medical professionals to detect metastasis (cancer cells that have spread to another part of the body). This gene provides great hope for both breast and prostate cancer management. The luciferase accompanies the cancer-therapeutic virus appearing in scans wherever there are living cancer cells. For example, a breast cancer patient could be treated with the cancer-targeting virus, which will produce luciferase within active cancer cells before the cells are destroyed. A medical team can then scan the patient in search of luciferase. If the mass of luciferase continues to shrink, they will be assured the virus is doing its job. Similarly, if the scan shows luciferase within the breast and in the brain, they will know the cancer has metastasized.
This discovery plays a major role in combatting metastasis, a core focus area of NFCR-supported research. In addition to Dr. Fisher, who has made several game-changing discoveries, NFCR funds numerous innovative researchers determined to find solutions to metastasis.
For example, Dr. Danny Welch and his team have discovered eight of the known metastasis suppressor genes. Further research based on these discoveries may lead to the design of molecules that either prevent metastasis from happening or maintain metastatic tumors in a dormant state. They have also identified genetic changes that predict whether or not patients will develop metastasis.
Additionally, NFCR-funded researcher Dr. Daniel Haber and his collaborators have developed an advanced micro-engineered device that captures extremely rare circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the blood. Genetic testing on captured CTCs in a standard blood sample may give doctors a way to treat the tumor more effectively or stop it from spreading. Moreover, CTCs allow the response of treatments to be monitored in real-time.
NFCR is able to fund lifesaving research initiatives thanks to the support from its generous donors. With a focus on high-risk, high-reward studies, NFCR has distinguished itself in the cancer research sector by emphasizing long-term, transformative research often overlooked by other major funding sources. To support NFCR and its dedicated team of researchers, make a contribution today.
Additional Reads You May Enjoy:
Stay connected with the cancer community! Receive NFCR’s monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips, and more. Sign up here.