I have been primarily interested in potential clinical applications of medical research and thus in its translational side. I worked at the Clinical Research Institute of Montreal while pursuing a PhD Program at McGill’s Department of Medicine. This training provided further in-depth training on vasculature and its control, which was highly relevant when I decided to switch to oncology. For my post-PhD training, I went to the NCI’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology, which is focused on targeted therapy of cancer. There, I learned that a rational design approach to anti-cancer drug design can produce prominent anti-tumor effect. For example, we produced the first conjugate candidate drug showing anti-tumor efficacy in a hard-to-treat model of colorectal cancer (1). In my first independent academic position, I led a Laboratory of Molecular Targeting at the University of Montreal, Hotel-Dieu Hospital Research Center. I designed and produced the first generation cytotoxin based on wild-type interleukin 13 (IL-13), and continued that line of research at the Department of Neurosurgery at Penn State’s Hershey Medical Center (2). Importantly, this cytotoxin went through Phase III clinical trials in patients with recurrent glioblastoma (GBM) showing clinical efficacy. We discovered the first factor in GBM over-expressed in majority of tumors, but not normal brain – IL-13RA2. Ten years later, I joined Wake Forest School of Medicine. We extended our search for targets and designed advanced forms of GBM-specific cytotoxins, and developed the concept of combinatorial therapy of GBM (3). We were first to document the phenotypic tri-molecular signature of GBM: IL-13RA2, EphA2 receptor and fos-related antigen 1 (FRA-1) (4). Our work has been a substrate for numerous translational applications, many being tested in the clinic. My extensive experience in successful discovery of targets specific to cancer, their pathophysiological role in cancer, and rational engineering of targeted recombinant proteins (including chimera and conjugated proteins, and peptides), enabled development of novel, specific and promising means of detecting and treating cancers over-expressing tumor-specific and tumor-associated antigens. I have particular interest in loco-regional delivery of drugs to brain tumors, especially in the convection-enhanced delivery (CED) and large animal models of the disease. My research has been continuously supported by federal, provincial, institutional or private funding sources for the past almost 25 years.
Debinski Lab - Focusing on the identification of molecular markers/targets that are specific to brain tumors and are pharmaceutically tractable.
Educational Program Involvement
Cancer Biology PhD
Program Research Interest: Cellular defense and metabolism, Aberrant signaling pathways in tumor cells, Cell growth and survival, Molecular cancer epidemiology, Gene-environment interactions, Cancer control
Molecular Genetics and Genomics PhD
Program Research Interest: Identification of genetic variants that contribute to complex disease, Gene-environment interactions, Epigenetics, Genetic epidemiology, Bioinformatics