Eric LaCasse

Associate Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

Dr. Eric LaCasse is an innovator and a cancer researcher. He obtained his PhD in Biochemistry (uOttawa) and completed his post-doctoral training at the Ontario Cancer Institute (Toronto). He was previously Head of Oncology at the biotechnology company Aegera Therapeutics (Montreal). In 2004, Dr. LaCasse developed the first inhibitor-of-apoptosis (IAP) targeting drug, an antisense oligonucleotide to the X-linked IAP, to enter clinical trials and to show clinical activity. This validated the IAPs as cancer targets and launched small-molecule development campaigns to inhibit the IAPs. This resulted in Aegera entering the first ever bivalent IAP antagonist, known as a dimeric Smac mimetic, and coincidentally the first clinical homo-PROTAC TM, into cancer trials in 2008. This provided in vivo proof-of-concept for a novel class of conjugate drugs capable of targeting proteins for ubiquitin- and proteasome-mediated degradation.
Dr. LaCasse is a CHEOri Associate Scientist and also Chief Scientific Officer for a biotech company, Protaxis Therapeutics (Cobourg), which is developing targeted protein degrader drugs based on IAP antagonists, for cancer, inflammation, infection and immunity (CI3). His research program centers on the understanding of the IAPs and their antagonistic drugs in CI3 biology. The urgent medical need to translate key discoveries made at the lab bench and to apply them clinically drives his research program, patient focus and commercialization goals. This includes developing drugs for many disease proteins that were previously thought to be ‘undruggable’ and this will provide new treatments for childhood and adult disorders.

Research Projects

  1. SMAC mimetics and RIPK inhibitors as therapeutics for chronic inflammatory diseases


    This may benefit and guide the development of SMs or selective RIPK inhibitors as anti-inflammatory therapeutics for various chronic inflammatory conditions.

  2. Smac Mimetics Synergize With Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors to Promote Tumour Immunity Against Glioblastoma


    Overall, this combinatorial approach could be highly effective in clinical application as it allows for cooperative and complimentary mechanisms in the immune cell-mediated death of cancer cells.

  3. Smac Mimetics and Innate Immune Stimuli Synergize to Promote Tumor Death


    As these and other adjuvants have been proven safe in clinical trials, it may be worthwhile to explore their clinical efficacy in combination with SMCs.