(May 9, 2011—Toronto, ON) Dr. Jim Dennis, a Senior Investigator at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital, was awarded the Lloyd S.D. Fogler (QC) Award of Excellence for his pivotal research and understanding of immunity as well as metastasis (the spread of cancer).
A Lunenfeld veteran since the Lunenfeld’s inception in 1985, Dr. Dennis is internationally renowned for his investigations into the cellular mechanisms involved in cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Specifically, Dr. Dennis’ research focuses on interactions at the surface of cells and the means by which proteins are modified by carbohydrates (sugars). In the past five years, Dr. Dennis’ work has highlighted the importance of these protein modifications in common, complex and chronic illnesses that affect millions of Canadians.
“I am delighted and honored to receive this award,” said Dr. Dennis. “It is certainly a wonderful privilege to join such an eminent group of past winners.”
In 1991, Dr. Dennis made a major advance in the pursuit to understand cancer metastases and the relationship to a high level of carbohydrates on the surface of cancer cells. In 2007, he published a groundbreaking study revealing his discovery of a new role for carbohydrates on proteins. His current work—which involves the development of a novel computational model to assess the function of carbohydrates on proteins—has stimulated new ideas linking common diseases with metabolism.
These findings also open the door to a new class of drug treatments and strategies to improve the effectiveness of existing therapies to treat cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Dr. Dennis’ group is currently exploring how networks of proteins form patterns or unique ‘signatures,’ and by tracking their evolutionary history can uncover information on our susceptibility to complex diseases. Dr. Dennis credits support from the Fine family for multiple sclerosis research in this area.
He also works closely with his clinical colleagues at Mount Sinai, especially Dr. Carol Swallow, a surgical oncologist and Head of General Surgery. Their collaborative work has been instrumental in enabling advances in patient care at the Sydney C. Cooper Program for the Prevention of Cancer Progression—a novel program bridging the gap between basic and health research.
A committee of Mount Sinai Hospital staff and Lunenfeld Board members selected Dr. Dennis for this award, which was established in 1997 in recognition of Mr. Lloyd Fogler’s outstanding tenure as Chairman of the Board from 1992-1997.
“Jim has been incessant in his pursuit of the study of protein-carbohydrate interactions over the past 26 years,” said Dr. Jim Woodgett, the Lunenfeld’s Director of Research. “As a result, he is regarded as one of the worlds’ true innovators in this field and a leader in understanding its role in diseases.”
Within the Lunenfeld, Dr. Dennis collaborates with his colleagues in the Systems Biology Group. He has published in prestigious scientific journals including Cell, Nature and Science, and his citations have increased each year. Dr. Dennis has held a Tier-1 Canada Research Chair since 2004, and in 2001 he was awarded the Friesen-Rygiel Prize, honouring the transfer of academic knowledge to commercial enterprise. Dr. Dennis is also a Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology as well as Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University of Toronto.