Despite significant advances in the treatment of many cancers, ovarian cancer still claims hundreds of lives in Canada every year. A molecule called podocalyxin is “switched on” by a high percentage of tumors from various cancer types including ovarian cancer and its expression is associated with poor prognosis. Since the immune system has a key influence in the control of tumor growth, one of my objectives will be to study how podocalyxin influences the immune response against tumors.
In addition, Dr. McNagny’s team recently developed an antibody, called PODO447, which recognizes an exquisitely tumor-specific form of podocalyxin. Accordingly, my second objective will be to explore the use of this antibody as a method to either attract immune cells to cancer cells and kill them or as a tool to deliver toxins and chemotherapeutic agents specifically to tumor cells while sparing normal tissue. Preliminary experiments in animal models already are suggesting the efficacy of the latter approach. In conclusion, the results obtained in this project will allow us to take one more step toward the objective of ultimately treating ovarian cancer patients with the podocalyxin targeting therapies.