Seminar looks at what happens when cells won’t die

Cells that miss their date with death and what that means for the treatment of cancer will be the topic of discussion when Sam Benchimol visits York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering for a seminar on Wednesday, March 16. The presentation, titled “The p53 Tumour Suppressor Network Regulates Cell Cycle Progression and Apoptosis”, will take place in room 121 of the Chemistry Building, from 3 to 5pm.

Sam BenchimolRight: Sam Benchimol, cancer researcher

Benchimol, a professor of microbiology at the University of Toronto and scientist at the Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI), Princess Margaret Hospital, is interested in understanding the signal transduction pathways that govern death and survival in human and animal cells. The expansion of tumour cell populations is driven by an increased rate of cell proliferation and by a decreased rate of programmed or normal cell death. This programmed demise of cells, known as apoptosis, should limit the growth of tumour cells but is often short-circuited by genetic alterations that allow cells to avoid their date with death. This defective process is considered a hallmark of cancer.

Since many traditional therapies used in the treatment of cancer kill cells by inducing apoptosis, a defect in the process also contributes to treatment failure. Benchimol and his laboratory colleagues focus on the tumour suppressor gene, known as “p53”, that is mutated and functionally inactivated in a wide range of human cancers and plays a central role in determining cell death. This death-defying process has implications for tissue injury and repair, tumour evolution and response to therapy.

Benchimol has served as head of the Division of Cell and Molecular Biology at the OCI from 1993 to 2005 and as acting Chair of the Department of Medical Biophysics, U of T, from 2000 to 2002. He served as a member of the editorial board of Oncogene from 1990 to 2000.

For more information on Benchimol and his research, click here.