Research in Saskatchewan offers new hope for detecting and treating aggressive brain cancer

15 February 2017

Regina -

Glioblastoma is the most common and most aggressive malignant primary brain cancer in adults. Most adults with glioblastoma survive only 1 to 2 years after diagnosis. New treatment options are desperately needed.

That’s where Dr Ron Geyer comes in. With an Innovation grant from the Canadian Cancer Society of almost $200,000, Dr Geyer and his team at the University of Saskatchewan are developing new imaging probes to better visualize and detect these hard-to-treat brain tumours. If successful, these probes will help doctors diagnose glioblastomas and guide surgical removal, leading to better patient outcomes.

Dr Geyer’s grant is funded in partnership with Brain Canada with the financial support of Health Canada, through the Canada Brain Research Fund. “The Canadian Cancer Society has committed to funding this research and needs the support of Canadians to help us match Brain Canada’s contribution of $98,000,” says Donna Ziegler, director of cancer control, Canadian Cancer Society, Saskatchewan. “We are grateful to our donors for making this and other research grants possible.” 

Donors can support this research by donating to the Canadian Cancer Society. Donations will be matched 1:1 by Brain Canada.  

“Glioblastomas have finger-like tentacles, which make these tumours almost impossible to surgically remove,” says Dr Geyer. “If we can develop a highly sensitive probe to detect exactly where the tumour is, we will have a much better chance of curing the disease.”

Gord Downie, lead singer of the Tragically Hip, was diagnosed with glioblastoma early in 2016 and has made Canadians more aware of the need for research into the disease.

The key to understanding the glioblastoma challenge is something called EGFR, or epidermal growth factor receptor. EGFR is a type of protein that’s found in high levels on the surface of these brain tumours, however EGFR is very difficult to detect using standard medical imaging techniques. It is critical to be able to distinguish between cancerous and normal tissue so that normal brain tissue isn’t removed or harmed during surgery and radiation. It’s also very important that all cancerous tissue be removed in order to help prevent the cancer’s progression or recurrence after treatment.

Dr Geyer will generate new imaging molecules that can detect EGFR in glioblastoma and display it on a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. These imaging tools could be used to improve glioblastoma detection and diagnosis and to guide surgery.

To make a donation to fund this research, please email Trina Owens at towens@sk.cancer.ca or call 306-790-5819.

About the Canadian Cancer Society

The Canadian Cancer Society funds the best cancer research in Canada thanks to our generous donors and our rigorous peer-review process. We are the largest national charitable funder of cancer research in Canada, funding hundreds of researchers in universities, hospitals and research centres. For more information, visit cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

For more information, please contact:

Brooke Kelly

Communications Coordinator

Canadian Cancer Society

National office

Phone: 416-934-5321