Dr. John Dick
Senior Scientist, Cancer Stem Cells

Dr. Frances Shepherd
Dr. John Dick

In 1994, Dr. John Dick and his team provided the first proof that cells in a cancer are not equal. Some cells are more lethal than others. They isolated the first cancer stem cell in acute myeloid leukemia.

One of the team’s initial goals was to improve the animal model for studying leukemia in order to better understand how cancer grows.

Dr. Dick’s team developed a way of identifying cancer stem cells in leukemia. They found that a protein, CD34, is present on the surface of the cells. This is what scientists refer to as a ‘marker’ or identifier. Cancerous cells without this CD34 marker were injected into mice, and did not develop into leukemia, while cancer cells with the marker consistently developed leukemia.

One of the most impressive things about the cancer stem cell research project led by Dr. John Dick is the cross-institutional collaboration that has been achieved. Dr. Dick’s team of principal investigators includes top scientists from the Ontario Cancer Institute at The Princess Margaret, as well as the Hospital for Sick Children (HSC), Toronto General Hospital and McMaster University.

In this project, the scientists are not only sharing their knowledge with one another, but dividing up the necessary work among the institutions in a way that takes advantage of resident expertise and research funding. They have collectively organized the project to fast track the work and to maximize the chance of success.

In 2006, Dr. Dick led the group that identified colon-cancer initiating stem cells.

Considered a luminary by his colleagues, Dr. Dick has won numerous awards including the Dameshek Prize (ASH), Noble Prize (NCIC), Michael Smith Award (CIHR), and most recently he shared the Diamond Jubilee Award (NCIC) with Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch. He has expertise in stem cells, NOD/SCID mice, gene transfer, transplantation, retroviruses, leukemia, oncogenes, hematopoiesis, and lentivectors.

Additional Appointments

• Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto
• Director, Program in Cancer Stem Cells-GENESIS Ontario Institute
   for Cancer Research (OICR)
• Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology

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