About one in two individuals living in Canada will be diagnosed with cancer at least once during their lifetime. While cancer is a complex disease that is not well understood, many forms of cancer are believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Although advancing medical knowledge have greatly improved the prognosis of patients with this disease, cancer remains a leading cause of death in Canada and other developed countries around the world.

Our Research

At CMMT, researchers from multiple disciplines are converging and collaborating to discover the underlying genetic causes of some of the most profound forms of cancer in Canadian society. CMMT researcher Dr. Wasserman and his bioinformatics laboratory, in close collaboration with other groups at CMMT and around the world, are studying the effects of gene regulation in the pathogenesis of cancer. In 2008, members of his laboratory were part of a team which discovered how microRNAs play a key role in suppressing key cancer proteins in acute promyelocytic leukemia.

Working in close collaboration with Dr. Wasserman and the bioinformatics core, CMMT researcher Dr. Kobor and his laboratory takes a unfamiliar approach to the study of cancer by focusing on the role that epigenetics plays in the onset of the disease. Recent studies have discovered that a large number of proteins involved in cancer development operate through the modification of epigenetic chromatin structures that surround our DNA. There is increasing evidence that changes in these epigenetic structures are severely augmented in cancerous cells. This altered state in which the DNA of cancerous cells exist in may help us explain why cancerous cells behave differently than normally functioning cells.

For this reason, chromatin is emerging as a prime target for therapeutic intervention of cancer and other diseases. Disseminating how these epigenetic changes occurred and how they can be reversed remains a priority for Dr. Kobor and his research team.


Saumet A, Vetter G, Bouttier M, Portales-Casamar E, Wasserman WW, Maurin T, Mari B, Barbry P, Vallar L, Friederich E, Arar K, Cassinat B, Chomienne C, Lecellier CH. Transcriptional repression of microRNA genes by PML-RARA increases expression of key cancer proteins in acute promyelocytic leukemia. Blood 113(2):412-21. (2009) PMID 18941112

Roberts TM, Kobor MS, Bastin-Shanower SA, Ii M, Horte SA, Gin JW, Emili A, Rine J, Brill SJ, Brown GW. Slx4 regulates DNA damage checkpoint-dependent phosphorylation of the BRCT domain protein Rtt107/Esc4. Mol. Biol. Cell 17(1):539-48. (2006) PMID 16267268

Astanehe A, Arenillas D, Wasserman WW, Leung PC, Dunn SE, Davies BR, Mills GB, Auersperg N. Mechanisms underlying p53 regulation of PIK3CA transcription in ovarian surface epithelium and in ovarian cancer. J. Cell. Sci. 121(Pt 5):664-74. (2008) PMID 18270270