Krylov combats cancer

Locating cancerous cells in human tissue at the early stages of the disease is not unlike locating a needle in a haystack. York University Professor Sergey Krylov (right) is working to make the haystack smaller.

More specifically, Krylov, Canada Research Chair in Bioanalytical Chemistry and chemistry professor in the Faculty of Pure & Applied Science, is attempting to better understand the molecular mechanisms of physiological and pathological processes in order to more effectively diagnose diseases like cancer.

Healthy tissue is usually composed of homogeneous populations of cells – that is, cells that are mostly identical. Cancer, however, occurs when cells mutate and accumulate randomly, causing cell populations to become extremely varied and heterogeneous. But locating the few cells that begin this process of mutation poses extraordinary difficulties.

Traditionally, pathologists have been forced to examine, under microscopes, portions of cancerous tissue, and therefore, only large, cumbersome clusters of cells at a time. Krylov’s revolutionary method, however, will enable pathologists to perform a chemical analysis of each cell, one by one, in the context of their environment.

Ultimately, Krylov’s work will improve our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that govern both normal physiological functions and disease. In addition, this vital research may ultimately provide doctors with a more efficient and effective way of diagnosing cancer. His interdisciplinary research, drawing on the fields of chemistry, biology and physics, also has applications to the study of diseases like Alzheimers and HIV.

Krylov’s study is currently the only substantial one of its kind in the world, and yet another example of York University’s unconventional approach to the pursuit of knowledge.

Jason Guriel, York’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada SPARK student (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge), wrote the above article for YFile. Guriel, a second-year graduate student in English, will continue to write stories on York NSERC-funded researchers throughout the year.

SPARK is a program that was launched in 1999 at 10 universities across Canada. Through SPARK, students with an aptitude for communications are recruited, trained and paid to write stories based on the NSERC-supported research at participating universities. Information on the NSERC Spark Student program is available at