Reducing risk of breast cancer recurrence
In 2003, a clinical trial led by the NCIC Clinical Trials Group found that post-menopausal survivors of early stage breast cancer who took the drug letrozole after completing an initial 5 years of tamoxifen therapy had a 43% reduced risk of cancer recurrence compared to women taking a placebo. The research is significant because more than half of women who develop recurrent breast cancer do so more than 5 years after their original diagnosis. Prior to this research, there was no treatment to reduce the risk of recurrence after 5 years of tamoxifen. Just over half of women with breast cancer are potentially eligible for this new treatment.
A few puffs enough to addict teens to smoking
Dr Jennifer O’Loughlin in Montreal found that smoking just 1 or 2 cigarettes may be all it takes for some teens to become addicted to nicotine. The findings challenged the idea that it takes adolescents 2 to 3 years of daily smoking to develop nicotine dependence and demonstrates why the stop-smoking message doesn’t always get through to teens. Her work opened the door to further research into effective smoking cessation aids for teens.
A good virus?
In 2001, a cancer biologist Dr Patrick Lee in Calgary discovered that a common and relatively harmless virus called a reovirus could kill a certain kind of cancer cell. Dr Patrick Lee and co-researcher Dr Peter Forsyth found that the virus caused glioma (brain) tumours to completely regress or shrink significantly. Clinical trials in humans are now underway to see if reovirus could be an effective new treatment.
Impact factor highest for Canadian clinical cancer research
A study ranking the impact of clinical, or patient-oriented, cancer research around the globe concluded that Canadian clinical cancer research is the best in the world. The Italian study, published in the January 2003 issue of the European Journal of Cancer, rated the so-called impact factor – how often clinical cancer research articles published between 1995 and 1999 were cited over the next 2 years in major scientific journals.
Canadian researchers international leaders in stem cell research
Dr John Dick in Toronto found that colon cancer originates from a rare type of colon cancer stem cell, laying the groundwork for the development of treatments that target and kill these cancer-causing cells. Dr Dick also discovered that isolated human leukemia stem cells cause the development of leukemia. This could lead to improved knowledge about how to prevent the disease.
Dr Mick Bhatia and his research team in Hamilton were the first in the world to discover the key differences between normal human embryonic stem cells and abnormal cancer stem cells. This could lead to treatments that target cancer cells and leave the healthy cells alone.
Dr Bhatia also discovered that some stem cells build a protective niche, which nurtures the cells with special growth proteins. The proteins also determine whether the stem cells copy themselves or develop into new kinds of cells, including cancer. The researchers hope to be able to target the protective niche to cut off the nutrient supply to tumours and prevent growth.