From left to right: Birgit Grimberger, General Director, Neurofibromatosis Ontario (NFON); Sonya Corson, President, NFON; Dr. David Rodenhiser, Children’s Health Research Institute (CHRI) scientist; Nicole Goudreau, Marketing Coordinator, NFON and her daughter, Neveah Sosa; and Dr. Chris Pin, Chair and Scientist, Division of Genetics & Development, CHRI.
Neurofibromatosis (NF) is a genetic disorder that causes tumours to grow along nerves and can affect the development of non-nervous tissues such as bones and skin. The worldwide incidence of NF1 (the most common of the three types of NF) is one in 2,500 to one in 3,000 individuals. Many patients inherit NF1 but it is estimated that about 50 per cent of cases occur as a result of spontaneous gene mutations.
There are currently few approved therapies for NF tumours, but funding provided by Neurofibromatosis Ontario (NFON) will enable researchers at Children’s Health Research Institute (CHRI), a program of Lawson Health Research Institute (Lawson), to explore using epigenetics to develop new treatments.
NFON will fund a study led by epigenetics researcher and CHRI scientist, Dr. David Rodenhiser, and conducted at Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC).
“Epigenetics research aims to understand factors that influence the activity of genes. Over the past few years, new technologies have been developed at Lawson to map epigenetics changes across the entire genomes of patient and tumour DNA. We can use these technologies to identify methylation signatures, which show genes that are wrongly turned on or off,” says Dr. Rodenhiser. “With this generous funding, we will identify methylation signatures in tumours from NF1 patients. Our goal is to determine specific targets for therapies already available for treating cancer and to develop new NF1-specific therapies.”