ALQUDS - Between April 29th and May 5th 2012, Drs. James Koropatnick and Peter Ferguson of the London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP), the Lawson Health Research Institute (LHRI), and Western University were guests of Dr. Yousef Najajreh, Associate Professor, College of Pharmacy, and Dean of Scientific Research at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, Palestine. Dr. Koropatnick, who is director of the Cancer Research Laboratory Program and Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, presented a seminar entitled “Combining Antisense/siRNA and Small Molecule Drugs Targeting Thymidylate Synthase: A Strategy for Cancer Therapy.” Dr. Ferguson, an Associate Scientist of the LHRI and Adjunct Professor in Oncology at Western, presented a seminar entitled “Exploiting Genomic Instability of Cancer Cells as a Possible Achilles Heel: Making Anticancer Therapy More Selective.” The visit was part of a collaboration between cancer researchers at the 2 universities, begun by a delegation from the Ontarion government, led by Premier Dalton McGinty, and representatives from Ontario universities visiting Al-Quds University in May of 2010. The subsequent collaboration with Western was spearheaded by Dr. Ted Hewitt, then Vice-President of Academic Affairs. Following a visit later that year to Western by Dr. Najajreh, a collaboration was established between Dr. Najajreh’s chemistry laboratory at Al-Quds and Dr. Koropatnick’s laboratory at the LRCP. Inspired by the positive outcome of the testing of some of the Al-Quds compounds against cancer cells, the researchers applied for and were awarded $260,000 in funding from the Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI) of the Province of Ontario. This funding makes possible the academic exchange between the 2 universities, including a study period this summer by one of Dr. Najajreh’s graduate students in Dr. Koropatnick’s laboratory, as well as funding for the basic research in producing and testing the novel anticancer agents in the 2 laboratories.
According to Dr. Koropatnick, “Our collaboration with Professor Najajreh and Al-Quds University fits extremely well with our focus in London on generating new drugs to treat cancer. Professor Najajreh’s expertise in the chemistry has led to intriguing new platinum-containing compounds with exciting potential to be developed as anticancer drugs. Combining his chemistry knowledge with our ability to test those compounds in biological systems is an ideal way to move these promising new molecules along the road from discovery to treatment. In addition, creating scientific and medical connections between Western University and Al-Quds creates exciting new international linkages in discovery and training that can lead to collaborations in many additional areas.”
Dr. Najajreh agrees. “I was thrilled to have our Canadian colleagues visiting Al-Quds and Palestine. Having Jim and Pete at my lab marks a noteworthy event on the history of the Anticancer Drugs Research Lab, which is unique in obtaining the MRI grant. I wish to see the collaboration between Palestine and Canada enhanced on all aspects and scientific research in particular. As a researcher and as Dean of Scientific Research I will be welcoming and ready to facilitate ties and relations between researchers and academicians at Al-Quds University and Canadian universities, especially with Western, to the benefit of us all.”
During the day, the visitors had a chance to meet not only with faculty members in the Pharmacy school, but also with administrative staff of Al-Quds, including Professor Rafik Karaman, Dean - College of Pharmacy, Professor Hasan Dweik, Executive Vice-President, and Dr. Hussein Jaddu, Asst. to the Vice-President for Academic Affairs.
Dr. Ferguson was delighted with his first visit to Palestine and Israel. “Fortunately for Dr. Koropatnick and me, the working language of the science departments is English, so we were able to have a great interaction with the students and faculty. They were enthusiastic about learning our side of the anticancer program, and we learned a lot about their chemistry approach to anticancer drug development. I can’t wait to return to Al-Quds after we have performed our experiments here, and engage in further discussions about possibly moving these compounds into clinical trials.”
Koropatnick and Ferguson were also treated to the historical aspect of the Holy Land. “Staying right in Bethlehem, and visiting Jerusalem, you are in the heartland of 2 major world religions and an important centre for a third,” says Ferguson. “People were so nice to us everywhere we went; one can easily forget the undercurrent that exists in that area. I hope that it can all be resolved soon, because it is a shame that is likely keeps some visitors away. It is really a part of the world worth seeing.”
The investigators wish to acknowledge the support and assistance of Premier Dalton McGuinty and Economic Development and Trade Minister Sandra Pupatello, as well as the persistent support of Dr. Rand Askalan, University of Toronto, in arranging the funding from the MRI. As Dr. Najajreh explains, “Palestine is very special place with a lot to be studied. I have hope that Canada will play a more positive and balanced role in an area that needs lot of attention and help.”
Here is a caption for the attached photo.
Drs. Jim Koropatnick and Pete Ferguson presented seminars to faculty and students of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, Palestine. Attendees included Drs. Hatem Eideh, Ferguson, Koropatnick, Mohammad Ayesh, Rasmi Abu Helu (Dean of Health Professions at Al-Quds), Yousef Najajreh Dean of Scientific Research, and host), and Maha Nahal.
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