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Research Saves Lives CANADIAN CANCER SOCIETY RESEARCH UPDATE Volume 3, May 2013


The Canadian Cancer Society is committed to eradicating cancer and improving the LIVES of people with cancer.


Introduction The Canadian Cancer Society has invested a billion dollars in cancer research since 1947. Today we are the largest national charitable funder of cancer research in Canada. This investment in research has revolutionized cancer care. More than 60% of Canadians will survive a cancer diagnosis today compared with 25% in the 1940s. The overall survival rate for children is 82% and higher for some cancers. Progress comes directly from outstanding research and clinical trials. Every year the best research projects in BC and across Canada receive grants from the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute. Current research is being funded to save lives, improve quality of life during and after cancer treatment and find prevention strategies. With so many advances in research we are coming ever closer to eradicating cancer forever. In some cases, research helps make the disease more manageable by developing effective treatments without side effects or preventing cancer before it starts. Research based in British Columbia In 2013, the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute awarded $6.3 million to 12 grants in BC. This includes four new impact grants, seven innovation grants and one prevention translation award. There are currently 48 projects underway in BC representing a total multi-year investment of $22.2 million. In BC grants are awarded to researchers at the University of British Columbia, University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University, the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.

1. INTRODUCTION


Key investigators are often world authorities in their respective fields. Many have made groundbreaking discoveries, such as Victor Ling who identified the multi-drug resistance mechanism and Connie and Allen Eaves whose discovery of blood stem cells led to bone marrow transplants for leukemia patients. The Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon has identified long term goals for research which include: • Develop, fund, and implement the Cancer Prevention Centre • Provide an annual grant to fund biomedical research through the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute Grants Each year more than 1,000 researchers across Canada apply for highly competitive grants managed by the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute. This arm of the Canadian Cancer Society selects only the very

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best submissions through a rigorous national peer review process. In 2012, the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute changed the focus of research to align more with the Society’s strategic goals. The new structure supports innovation grants that solve problems creatively; while the impact grants are for research that may lead to high impact discoveries of direct relevance to cancer patients. For example, the delivery of programs that enhance the quality of life of cancer survivors, and important cancer prevention and risk reduction research. The amount of an individual grant varies from several thousand to $2 million or more based on the costs of resources needed and the project’s merit. The Society also funds organizationbased research with institutions and multi-sector projects.

Canadian Cancer Society – Research Update, 2013


Outcomes

The Future

Research saves lives. The outcome of investment in cancer research has led to a greater understanding of the causes of some cancers and the development of safer, less invasive and more effective treatments with fewer side effects.

Here are some of the promising research trends that are leading us forward in our efforts to eradicate cancer:

The development of new medical technologies and procedures has greatly improved the detection and diagnosis of cancer — which is directly related to a more favourable outcome. Research has also revealed important prevention strategies.

•h  elping the body’s defences destroy cancer cells •u  sing viruses to treat cancer • s tarving tumours by cutting off their blood supply •d  esigning drugs that target malignant cells •d  eveloping more precise tests for diagnosis and prognosis •m  aking radiation therapy smarter • k illing tumours with light •u  nderstanding and changing risky behaviours

Please note that Canadian Cancer Society-funded researchers often have multiple affiliations.

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Approximately $6.3 million in grants were awarded to BC-based researchers in 2013.

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Canadian Cancer Society – Research Update, 2013


2013 grants

Dr Samuel Aparicio BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $1,245,000 (2013 – 2018)

Dr Joan Bottorff University of British Columbia $928,000 (2012 – 2016)

Dr Aparicio’s team will be one of the first groups in the world to study how individual breast tumour cells mutate over time and how they change in response to current therapies, with the goal of modifying treatment strategies to improve outcomes for patients.

Dr Bottorff and her team have received a multi-sectoral grant to study how agencies can collaborate to reduce the incidence of cancer in Northern BC. The region has higher rates of smoking and obesity, and overall increased rates of cancerrelated deaths than the rest of the province. The study is funded in collaboration with Northern Health and the BC Cancer Agency.

2013 Impact Grant Recipient

2013 Multisector Team Grant in Prevention Research Recipient

5. 2013 GRANTS


Dr Raewyn Broady University of British Columbia $175,959 (2013 – 2015)

Dr Artem Cherkasov University of British Columbia $1,208,824 (2013 – 2018)

GVHD (graft versus host disease), is a deadly complication that occurs when the transplanted immune cells attack cells in the patient’s body. Dr Broady and her colleagues will test a modified version of a specialized cell (Treg) to control GVHD by suppressing transplanted immune cells while sparing those that fight cancer and other infections.

Hormone resistant prostate cancer and breast cancer do not respond well to currently available drugs and represent the leading cause of death for these two cancers. Dr Cherkasov is developing an entirely new class of anticancer drugs that target a new site on hormone receptors to treat these resistant cancers. 2013 Impact Grant Recipient

2013 Innovation Grant Recipient

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Canadian Cancer Society – Research Update, 2013


William E. Rawls Prize Recipient

Dr Colin Collins Vancouver Hospital and Health Sciences Centre $199,870 (2013 – 2015)

Dr David Huntsman BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $1,250,000 (2013 – 2018)

Dr Collins is developing a novel and sophisticated computer program to look at gene interaction networks in an advanced form of prostate cancer to discover new drug targets and the underlying causes of the disease.

Dr Huntsman is leading a study to identify driver mutations that cause normal cells to become cancerous in two of the deadliest forms of ovarian cancer. Dr Huntsman’s team will pinpoint the genetic mutations that underlie these cancers to identify new biomarkers and treatments as well as strategies to prevent these cancers from occurring in women with pre-cancerous endometriosis.

2013 Innovation Grant Recipient

2013 Impact Grant Recipient 2013 William E. Rawls Prize Recipient (See Awards of Excellence, p. 11)

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Dr Dirk Lange University of British Columbia $185,580 (2013 – 15)

Dr Brad Nelson BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $200,000 (2013 – 2015)

Dr Lange is developing a new treatment for bladder cancer using a freshwater bacterium already effective at treating cancers in mice. Dr Lange will focus on slowing early tumour growth, decreasing the size of later tumours, and activating the cancer fighting cells of the body’s own immune system to provide a new treatment option and improve the quality of life and survival of cancer patients.

Dr Nelson and his team are pioneering a new way to treat lymphoma with the development of personalized vaccines based on the mutations found in each tumour that stimulate the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. 2013 Innovation Grant Recipient

2013 Innovation Grant Recipient

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Canadian Cancer Society Bernard & Francine Dorval Prize Recipient

Dr Torsten Nielsen University of British Columbia $1,250,000 (2013 – 2018)

Dr John Oliffe University of British Columbia $200,000 (2013 – 2015)

Dr Nielsen has made major progress in the understanding of a rare soft tissue cancer, synovial sarcoma, which mainly affects children and young adults and for which standard therapies offer little benefit. Dr Nielsen is building on this work to explore similar sarcomas, to identify effective drugs, and move new therapies to clinical trials.

Dr Oliffe is developing new methods to improve tobacco reduction and cessation. Focused on interventions for expectant fathers, Dr Oliffe will refine a health promotion program, “Dads in Gear” (DIG), and evaluate new web-based technologies to improve access and strengthen the impact of the DIG program. 2013 Prevention Translation

2013 Impact Grant Recipient 2013 Canadian Cancer Society Bernard & Francine Dorval Prize Recipient (See Awards of Excellence, p. 11)

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Dr Ryan Rhodes University of Victoria $197,324 (2013 – 2015)

Dr Michel Roberge University of British Columbia $188,464 (2013 – 2015)

While physical activity is effective at reducing cancer risk, promoting a healthy lifestyle can be challenging, particularly in children. Dr Rhodes is testing whether an interactive exergame bike — an exercise bike connected to a videogame — is more effective at supporting fitness when connected to the internet, allowing online play capabilities in the family home.

Dr Roberge is studying how a new drug discovered by his research team can impair the growth and survival of pancreatic cancers by inhibiting p62, a protein found in large amounts in some pancreatic cancers, a disease which has less than 6% survival rate. 2013 Innovation Grant Recipient

2013 Innovation Grant Recipient

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Awards of Excellence

Dr David Huntsman is the recipient of the William E. Rawls Prize.

Dr Jeremy Wulff University of Victoria $200,000 (2013 – 2015) Dr Wulff and his research team are developing new molecules to block an interaction between two proteins in cells called PD1 and PDL1, a treatment strategy that has been effective in several types of human cancers. Dr Wulff hopes to identify more specific, stable and affordable inhibitors as alternatives to current treatments. 2013 Innovation Grant Recipient

The prize is given to a young investigator whose work has led to important advances in cancer control within the past decade. The award comes with a $20,000 contribution to the recipient’s research program.

Dr Torsten Nielsen is a co-recipient of the Canadian Cancer Society Bernard & Francine Dorval Prize. The award is given to a promising young Canadian investigator judged to have made outstanding contributions to basic biomedical research and had the potential to lead to, or has led to, better understanding of cancer, improved cancer treatments, cures or new advances in cancer control. The award comes with a $20,000 contribution to the recipient’s research program. 11.


Funding to researchers can be from one year to four years — depending on the type of grant awarded.

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Continuing grants

Dr Raymond Andersen University of British Columbia $420,527 (2011  – 2013)

Dr Peter Black University of British Columbia $393,867 (2010  – 2013)

Dr Andersen’s group is working to develop new anticancer drugs based on various substances derived from sea animals. New drugs to treat recurrent prostate cancer will be tested in clinical trials.

Dr Black’s project studies the effect of Notch receptors — molecules that switch different processes on and off during cell development, enhancing the growth and spread of cancer. His research team will determine the importance of these receptors in bladder cancer and try to block them using treatment methods that have previously been successful in other cancers.

13. CONTINUING GRANTS


Dr Ryan Brinkman BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $384,560 (2010  – 2013)

Dr Winson Cheung BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $392,839 (2011  – 2013)

Dr Brinkman is developing methods to improve the classification of leukemias and lymphomas. New automated methods have the potential to increase diagnostic accuracy of blood cancers. This is particularly important in patients who are difficult to diagnose, potentially misdiagnosed or have an unclear diagnosis. With more specific diagnoses, clinicians can make better treatment decisions.

With improvements in cancer survival rates there are a growing number of cancer survivors, many of whom face new risks related to their health such as heart disease, diabetes or osteoporosis. Using large databases in BC, Dr Cheung is leading the first large-scale study of its kind to investigate whether adult cancer survivors are receiving appropriate preventive care and support.

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Dr Shoukat Dedhar BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $682,500 (2008  – 2013)

Dr Carolyn Gotay University of British Columbia $583,111 (2011  – 2013)

Dr Dedhar is studying ways in which the ILK protein influences cancer cells and whether interfering with ILK sensitizes tumour cells and improves their response to treatment. Dr Dedhar’s study will enhance understanding of this complex protein and lead to the development of more effective cancer treatment.

Dr Gotay’s study is looking at the effect of three health promotion strategies delivered in the workplace and their impact on employee health, work and lifestyle habits. The goal is to develop strategies that lead to fewer cancers. The workplace is an important site for promoting lifestyle changes because people spend significant time there. To date little research has been done on the potential of these programs to promote a healthy diet, increase physical activity and decrease obesity in Canada.

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Dr Cheryl Helgason BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $200,000 (2012 – 2014)

Dr Philip Hieter University of British Columbia $199,200 (2012 – 2013)

Dr Helgason is working with laboratory models to determine which non-coding RNA molecules (a new type of genetic material) are responsible for the spread of prostate cancer to identify new targets for treatment.

Dr Hieter is testing combinations of therapies that damage DNA and block the repair of DNA in simple yeast and worm organisms (with genetic defects similar to those found in human cancers). He hopes to identify those most effective at killing tumour cells.

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Canadian Cancer Society – Research Update, 2013


Dr William Jia University of British Columbia $344,172 (2010  – 2013)

Dr Xiaoyan Jiang BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $414,000 (2010  – 2013)

Dr Jia is further developing his pioneering work showing that the herpes simplex virus can be used to kill brain cancer cells. To overcome the problem of inducing the virus to multiply within the tumour, his team is creating two types of geneticallyengineered herpes simplex viruses built to kill tumour cells more effectively without harming normal tissues.

Dr Jiang is working on understanding the role of AHI1, a newly-discovered cancer-causing gene, and its role in protecting leukemia stem cells from cancer-fighting drugs like Gleevec. Many patients prove resistant to Gleevec and its effects over time. This signals a need to understand how resistance occurs in order to guide the development of more effective treatments.

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Dr Steven Jones BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $408,520 (2010  – 2013)

Dr Mladen Korbelik BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $199,990 (2012  – 2013)

Dr Jones is using genetic sequencing techniques to generate the first comprehensive description of the molecular changes found in thyroid cancers. Using tissue samples extracted from patients during surgery, this work aims to identify the differences between malignant and benign thyroid tumours, improve diagnostic techniques, and help develop more targeted treatment methods.

Dr Korbelik is using strong light (photodynamic therapy) to destroy tumour cells. After cells have been sensitized using specific drugs to create powerful cancer vaccines, the body can initiate an immune response to eradicate cancer cells.

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Canadian Cancer Society – Research Update, 2013


Dr Gang Li University of British Columbia $423,000 (2011  – 2013)

Dr Christopher Loewen University of British Columbia $200,000 (2012  – 2013)

Dr Li’s research team is investigating the molecular mechanisms that help to repair DNA after it has been damaged by ultraviolet (UV) light, a key risk factor for skin cancer. Their study is looking at how growth‑inhibiting proteins work together to repair DNA, influence the body’s ability to recognize damaged DNA and help repair proteins to do their job.

Dr Loewen is examining biosensors in yeast that regulate metabolic changes involved in the growth and spread of tumours. He hopes to use this knowledge to understand metabolic changes in human cancers and to identify novel drugs and drug targets.

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Dr Grant Mauk University of British Columbia $587,420 (2008  – 2013)

Mary McBride BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $2,975,000 (2008  – 2013)

Dr Mauk is examining how IDO, a key enzyme produced by tumour cells, stops the immune system from fighting cancer. He hopes to identify agents that could block the activity of the enzyme.

Ms McBride’s groundbreaking research is evaluating the lifetime impact of childhood cancer and treatments on survivors diagnosed with leukemia before age 25. Her goal is to ensure that survivors receive the posttreatment support they need.

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Dr Lawrence McIntosh University of British Columbia $431,712 (2011  – 2013)

Dr Andrew Minchinton BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $199,512 (2012  – 2013)

Dr McIntosh’s research concerns the processes that “turn on” genes within cells. His team focuses on transcription factors and their regulation of genetic activity. Since abnormal activity can cause a cell to become cancerous, their results may suggest new ways to diagnose cancer and stop their development.

Dr Minchinton is using state-of-theart technologies to test a new set of drugs to re-sensitize cancer cells that have slowed down their growth to become resistant to chemotherapy.

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Dr Christopher Nelson University of Victoria $323,844 (2010  – 2013)

Dr Sylvia Ng BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $394,497 (2010  – 2013)

Dr Nelson’s project focuses on recently-discovered molecule FKBP25 and its role in turning cell growth genes on and off. Little is currently known about the molecule, but since high levels of FKBP25 have been found in ovarian cancers, Dr Nelson wants to find out if it plays a role in the development of the disease.

Dr Ng’s research team is investigating cancerous fibroblasts that produce molecules that may protect hardto-treat pancreatic cancer cells from chemotherapy. Her team is studying the behavior of one of these molecules (IL-6) to determine if inhibiting its function will improve treatment effectiveness.

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Dr Christopher Ong University of British Columbia $414,000 (2011  – 2013)

Dr Christopher Overall University of British Columbia $552,000 (2009  – 2013)

Removing the hormonal fuel that feeds prostate cancer is a common treatment, but eventually prostate cancer cells adapt and do not need testosterone to grow. Dr Ong’s project targets the protein Semaphorin 3C, which is elevated in prostate cancer and stimulates the cancer’s growth. He will develop potential drugs to interfere with its function.

Dr Overall and his team have developed a sophisticated new technique, degradomics, to study tumour samples and see which proteases (enzymes that act as a molecular knife to cut proteins to their right size) are present. They can determine the proteins they target and which are best suited to drug treatments without major harm to the rest of the body.

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Dr Stuart Peacock BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $153,213 (2009  – 2014)

Dr David Perrin University of British Columbia $373,892 (2009  – 2013)

Dr Peacock is investigating if there are differences in income and employment between cancer survivors and the general population. He is interested in what clinical and socio-economic demographic factors predict the ability of these survivors to participate in the labour market. This information can inform care providers and policy makers of broader long term impacts of cancer and its treatment.

Dr Perrin continues to work to create even better PET scan imaging agents through the development of a new radioactive drug that is easier to produce, more stable and is detected by the scan after being injected into the patient and traveling to cancer sites.

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Dr Ryan Rhodes University of Victoria $377,062 (2010  – 2013)

Dr Miriam Rosin BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $200,000 (2012  – 2014)

Interactive physical video games, such as Wii Fit, have become popular with Canadian families — but how do they compare to other traditional types of exercise that promote regular physical activity and play an important role in preventing cancers? To answer this question, Dr Rhodes and his team will conduct a rigorous study on the family use of exercise games.

Dr Rosin is studying the excised tonsils of patients to determine patterns of HPV infection and conducting surveys to assess if lifestyle factors increase risk of tonsil cancers.

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Dr Sohrab Shah BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $199,606 (2012  – 2013)

Dr Poul Sorensen BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $199,830 (2012  – 2015)

Dr Shah is continuing to develop a protoype computer program to identify genetic mutations that drive breast and ovarian cancers. This is expected to speed up research around the world that relies on finding important gene mutations as the basis of new therapies.

Cancer cells can easily adapt to new environments and recent evidence has shown that they are also able to adapt to low levels of available nutrients by triggering survival pathways in the cell. Dr Sorensen is studying these “adapted” cancerous cells to determine whether eEF2K, a translation elongation factor that has previously been associated with poor outcomes in various cancers, is a suitable target for novel drug development.

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Canadian Cancer Society – Research Update, 2013


Dr Fumio Takei BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $682,500 (2008  – 2013)

Dr Hung-Sia Teh University of British Columbia $358,925 (2008  – 2013)

Dr Takei works with the body’s natural killer (NK) cells that are powerful allies in fighting cancer. In the past, attempts to use them have been disappointing because not all NK cells work in the same way. By grouping these cells into different types and studying their unique behaviours, Dr Takei is increasing an understanding of how NK cells work and how they might become suitable targets for improved therapies.

Dr Teh is studying how a specific group of molecules, tumour necrosis factor receptor 2 (TNFR2), with the ability to activate T-cells can be manipulated to improve the immune response to cancer and bacterial infections.

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Dr Catherine Van Raamsdonk University of British Columbia $624,958 (2008  – 2013)

Dr Sean Virani University of British Columbia $172,824 (2012  – 2015)

Dr Van Raamsdonk is looking for new melanoma genes by studying the mutation that regulates the survival and spread of pigmentation cells.

Anthracyclines are chemotherapy drugs used in the treatment of a variety of cancers, including breast cancer, which can have severe side effects, including heart failure. Dr Virani is studying how a common medication that can prevent or reverse heart damage, eplerenone, can be used in concert with anthracyclines to improve clinical outcome and quality of life for patients.

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Dr Joan Wharf Higgins University of Victoria $599,034 (2010  – 2013)

Dr Haishan Zeng & Dr Stephen Lam BC Cancer Agency Cancer Research Centre $183,688 (2012  – 2015)

Dr Wharf Higgins’ study builds on her previous research in elementary schools and implements and evaluates the effect of a “whole school” healthy lifestyle program. The study includes an examination of school environments and policies in five British Columbia high schools. Developed in collaboration with students, the study will promote physical activity, healthy eating and healthy lifestyle habits that can prevent cancer later in life.

Early detection and treatment of lung cancer increases the five-year survival rate of the disease to more than 90%. Drs Zeng and Lam are developing a new biochemical breath test for screening lung cancer that will make detection easier and more accessible to health care providers and patients.

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Clinical trials are the best way to test new methods for diagnosing, treating, managing and preventing cancer.

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Canadian Cancer Society – Research Update, 2013


Clinical trials Clinical research is patient-focused research and the best way to test new methods for diagnosing, treating, managing and preventing cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society invests about $5 million in clinical trials in Canada annually, primarily through its support of the Clinical Trials Group, a unique cancer organization cited for operating one of the best clinical trials systems in the world. There were 25 clinical trials funded in BC in 2012 and 233 new patients enrolled in clinical trials on breast, prostate, colorectal, liver, melanoma, lung, pancreatic, leukemia and brain tumours.

31. CLINICAL TRIALS


The Society partnerships allow us to transfer knowledge into practice.

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Partnerships The Canadian Cancer Society is proud to work in partnership with many distinguished organizations. Among those is the University of British Columbia, seat of the Canadian Cancer Society Chair in Cancer Primary Prevention held by Dr Carolyn Gotay. The Chair was established to increase cancer prevention research and risk reduction strategies, leverage partnerships and foster the transfer of knowledge into practice.

The Canadian Cancer Society also funds the Propel Centre for Population Impact, a unique organization located at the university of Waterloo. Propel is committed to preventing cancer and chronic disease by improving health at a population level and reducing the impact of cancer on people affected by the disease. Their primary focus is on tobacco control, youth health and improved quality of life for those who have had cancer.

This activity is being greatly expanded with the establishment of a Cancer Prevention Centre with UBC.

The Canadian Cancer Society is also a member of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, Canadian Cancer Research Alliance, International Cancer Portfolio, the International Union Against Cancer, Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) and Health Charities Coalition of Canada (HCCC).

The Society contributes funds to the Canadian Centre for Applied Research in Cancer Control (ARCC), an innovative pan-Canadian research centre specializing in health economics, services, policy and ethics applied to cancer control. The Centre aims to make improvements across the cancer control spectrum from prevention, screening and diagnosis to treatment, rehabilitation, survivorship and palliative care.

33. PARTNERSHIPS


About half of all cancers can be prevented by a combination of healthy living and healthy public policy.

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The Canadian Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Centre Cancer is the leading cause of death in BC and Canada. Two out of every five Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and one out of every four will die of this disease. If nothing is done, the number of new cancer cases is expected to increase 70% by 2030, driven largely by the growing population. However, because about half of all cancers can be prevented by a combination of healthy living and healthy public policies, there is an enormous potential to save lives. This opportunity led the Canadian Cancer Society to propose and establish a Cancer Prevention Centre — linking researchers, organizations and government to prevent cancer and chronic disease.

researchers, health practitioners and policy makers. The results will lead to better policy decisions, program delivery and lifestyle modifications for the public, sooner. There have been a number of successful projects to date: a workplace wellness research project, a breast cancer risk assessment and prevention centre, an investigation into the interrelationships between cancer incidence/survival and social determinants of health, a study into workplace awareness of harmful exposures and how to reduce their risk and a proposal to mobilize British Columbians about mitigating the risk of radon in their homes.

The Cancer Prevention Centre in partnership with the University of British Columbia is part of a national Canadian Cancer Society strategy to accelerate prevention research and develop a network of academic

35. CANCER PREVENTION CENTRE


Canadian Cancer Society-funded researchers continue to discover ways to reduce cancer incidence and mortality and enhance the quality of life for Canadians living with and beyond cancer.

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Top 10 Canadian Cancer Society-funded research stories of 2012 Here are the top 10 research stories of 2012 that have been published in prestigious cancer research publications. 1. De-coding a highly aggressive form of breast cancer will lead to more personalized treatments For the first time, an international team of scientists de-coded the complex genetic profile of triple negative breast cancer, a difficult-to-treat form of the disease. Dr Sam Aparicio (p.7) in Vancouver led the study a number of years ago, which found a wide variety of mutations in patients. This knowledge was an important step. Knowing more about the genes involved could change the way the disease is diagnosed and form the basis for the next generation of treatments. Published in: Nature, April 2012. 2. Team finds new ways to treat malignant childhood brain cancer Dr Michael Taylor in Toronto was part of the international team of experts, the Medulloblastoma Advanced Genomics International Consortium (MAGIC), which identified several abnormal genetic changes that lead to the development of the malignant brain tumour. This research has identified a number of genetic targets for more effective treatments and may spare some children the side effects of unnecessary radiation. Published in: Nature, July 2012. 3. Improving survival for patients with rare form of pancreatic cancer A Clinical Trials Group study has found that patients with a rare form of pancreatic cancer live longer if they are treated with surgery plus chemotherapy. This finding is an important step towards improving typically poor survival outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients. Published in: Journal of the American Medical Association, July 2012. 37. TOP 10 STORIES OF 2012


4. Trial finds Hodgkin lymphoma patients live longer with only chemotherapy A Clinical Trials Group found that patients with early Hodgkin lymphoma live longer when treated with standard chemotherapy compared with those also receiving radiation. The findings mean that these patients can be effectively treated for their cancer while avoiding the long-term side effects of radiation. Published in: The New England Journal of Medicine, February 2012. 5. Barriers delay referral to palliative care A study led by Dr Camilla Zimmermann in Toronto found that Canadian oncologists refer terminally ill cancer patients to palliative care too late, often in the last few months of life and sometimes not until the final few days. The key barriers to earlier referrals were the availability and lack of comprehensive palliative care services. Referring patients earlier allows care teams to relieve symptoms and distress, provide appropriate social services and give advanced care advice to improve the quality of life of cancer patients and their families. Published in: Journal of Clinical Oncology, October 2012. 6. Natural sea sponge product prevents cancer-induced muscle wasting Dr Imed Gallouzi and his research team in Montreal found that a natural substance found in sea sponges prevents muscle deterioration in laboratory models. Cancer patients suffering cachexia experience poorer quality of life and often an earlier death. About 30% of people with cancer die due to it. The researchers found that pateamine A can be used at low doses to prevent and reduce muscle loss. This study is the first to show a potential treatment option for this condition. Published in: Nature Communications, June 2012.

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7. Study shows drug destroys human cancer stem cells but spares healthy ones Dr Mick Bhatia, an international cancer stem cell research expert, discovered that the drug thioridazine, currently used to treat mental illness, successfully kills leukemia stem cells without harming normal stem cells. Cancer stem cells enable cancer to keep growing and may also be implicated when cancer recurs after treatment. Researchers plan to test the drug in clinical trials, focusing on patients with acute myeloid leukemia whose disease has relapsed after chemotherapy. Published in: Cell, June 2012. 8. Developing smarter treatments for rare cancer in young adults Dr Torsten Nielsen (p.11) and his research team in Vancouver have unravelled how a genetic mutation affecting proteins in the cell causes cancer of the connective tissue. Synovial sarcoma is rare but often fatal. It develops in the limbs of young adults. The researchers found that drugs, genetic inhibitors, used to stop the activity of these proteins can kill tumour cells. It is expected to lead to more targeted treatments. Published in: Cell, March 2012. 9. Vitamin D controls proteins to stop cancer development and growth Dr John White and his research group in Montreal have focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms that give vitamin D cancer fighting abilities. They studied the cMYC protein, which is present in higher levels in at least 50% of cancers. The researchers found many ways that vitamin D can block cMYC in human cells. The findings add to the growing evidence around vitamin D and cancer and will spark future studies to gain further understanding of its role. Published in: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 2012.

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10. Drug shows promise in fighting leukemia Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that can become very aggressive if not treated quickly. Dr Aaron Schimmer and colleagues in Toronto tested several drugs that are already approved for other conditions to determine whether any of them could also target leukemic cells. The researchers found that the antimalarial drug, mefloquine, specifically causes AML cancer cells to burst, uncovering a potential new therapeutic strategy for these leukemias. Published in: The Journal of Clinical Investigation, December 2012.

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Canadian Cancer Society Research Update 2013