Douglas Mahoney PhD

University of Calgary, Canada Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Disease

Research Focus: Tumor Specific Replicating Virus and Bacteria

Cancer Type: Breast Cancer

Award: Young Investigator

Oncolytic viruses are promising biotherapeutic tools for cancer, whose clinical and commercial development is progressing rapidly. Currently, a major preclinical initiative in the field is to engineer next generation viruses or virus/drug combinations that break through the barriers to successful treatment.

Dr. Mahoney’s goal is to harness the innate cytokine response of the immune system — normally a major impediment to oncolytic virus therapy — to attack and kill tumours. His preliminary experiments demonstrate one strategy to accomplish this: antagonizing the Inhibitor of APoptosis (IAP) gene family. In this case, a drug that antagonized the “Inhibitor of APoptosis” (IAP) gene family rewired tumour cells to initiate a self-destruct sequence upon exposure to cytokines, which were strongly induced in tumours infected with an oncolytic virus. To build upon these data, and to broaden the underlying concept, he proposes a research plan to (1) elucidate the mechanisms responsible for synergy between oncolytic virus therapy and IAP antagonism, and (2) identify new opportunities to reprogram tumour cells to die in response to the cytokine cloud generated by oncolytic virus therapy.

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