Professor Ralph Sanderson and Professor Israel Vlodavsky

2010 Neufeld Prize Winners
Professor Ralph Sanderson and Professor Israel Vlodavsky

Multiple myeloma is the second most prevalent type of cancer affecting blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes. One of the major characteristics of this and other types of cancer is the spreading of cancer cells (metastasis) from the primary tumor to other parts of the body.

Winners of the 2011 Neufield Prize, Professor Ralph Sanderson at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy and Professor Israel Vlodavsky from Technion’s Polak Center for Cancer Research and Vascular Biology are carrying out studies  to shed more light on the role played by heparanase in bone destruction. They are also designing second-generation heparanase inhibitors as possible new anti-myeloma drugs. Another approach is to develop antibodies to inhibit heparanase activity.

Professor Vlodavsky explained, “The reason why cancer is so dangerous is because it spreads. We were the first to identify the molecule and the gene that encodes for the enzyme heparanase and proved that it plays a critical role in tumor progression.  Heparanase enables tumor cells to enter blood vessels and exit at distant sites, and facilitates the supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients to a growing tumor.” As recent research in his laboratory showed, myeloma growth in mice is suppressed by a chemically modified heparin, which inhibits heparanase.

They will test these potential new therapies in mouse myeloma models. These researchers believe these new approaches against myeloma will also be effective in a broad range of other cancers involving heparanase overexpression.