Stanford Researchers Sage and Coles

The following is an interview with FCF researchers Julien Sage, Ph.D, Professor of Pediatrics (Hematology/Oncology) and of Genetics, and Garry Coles, Ph.D, Postdoctoral research fellow, pediatric cancer biology. They work out of the Sage Lab at Stanford Medicine. In addition to his research on fibrolamellar, Dr. Sage has served as a grant reviewer for FCF.

Why is fibrolamellar carcinoma of interest to you?
In many cases, the study of pediatric cancers has opened new research directions in adult cancers and has allowed the cancer community to develop new paradigms. The Sage Lab with Dr Sage and Dr. Coles as lead investigators have been interested in developing pre-clinical mouse models for pediatric cancers and FLC was an obvious candidate given the simple genetics and clinical relevance.

What is different about fibrolamellar than other cancers you’ve worked on?
FLC is quite different from a number of other cancer types because its biology is so new. We are only beginning to understand how the disease starts and we don’t know how it progresses. It’s a completely new field of research.

What is your lab currently working on?
We are working on two aspects of FLC. First we are developing a genetically engineered mouse model, which provides a defined, pre-clinical model to investigate FLC biology and test new therapeutic approaches. Second, we are investigating signaling networks downstream of the main oncogene in FLC, the protein kinase A fusion.

How does your research background benefit your work on FLC?
Our lab has a great deal of experience with mouse models of human cancers, including pediatric cancers and liver cancers. Additionally, several members of our group have expertise in studying human developmental disorders. We believe that a combined understanding of normal human development and pre-clinical cancer models helps us to understand both FLC tumor initiation and tumor growth.

Do you see any promising discoveries on the horizon for fibrolamellar?
It may be too early to say, again, a lot more research has to be done, but protein kinase A inhibitors, possibly in combination with other small molecule inhibitors of signaling kinases, may be really helpful.

What advice do you have for Fibrolamellar Cancer Foundation (FCF) to get more top MD’s and PhD’s involved in our mission to find a cure?
In our opinion, the FCF is doing a great job to bring researchers, clinicians, and patients together. The more people realize that FLC can serve as a model for many other cancer types and even non-cancerous disorders, the more people will study it.

In your opinion, how can the FLC patient community help accelerate the road to the cure?
One way in which the patient community may help research and translational studies is to help raise funds of course, but also by being involved in translational research efforts.