Research into preventing the spread of cancer could save more lives

21 August 2013

Calgary -

Cancer is the leading cause of premature death in Canada, but patients often do not die from the first tumour that forms. In most cases, cancer becomes more challenging to successfully treat after it spreads to another organ.

More insight is needed into how and why cancer spreads – or metastasizes – to improve cancer treatments and ultimately save more lives. This is information that Dr Stephen Robbins and his team at the University of Calgary are trying to unlock with funding from the Canadian Cancer Society.

Dr Robbins recently received a $200,000 Innovation Grant to further his investigation into metastasis, primarily to the liver and lung, two of the most common sites to which cancer spreads.

“We now know that sarcoma, colorectal, breast and melanoma cancers have a tendency to metastasize to these two organ sites,” Robbins says. “Our research focuses namely on what molecules are involved in the metastatic spread in the liver and lungs.”

Dr Robbins and his team have already identified a new molecule that blocked the spread of breast cancer and melanoma in pre-clinical models. With this Innovation Grant, the team will continue to investigate the effectiveness of this drug and will also examine the role that the immune system plays in the metastatic process. What they discover has the potential to lead to new strategies for the prevention and treatment of metastatic cancer.

Dr Roger Zemp of the University of Alberta also received a $200,000 Innovation Grant through this most recent round of funding. His team is in the process of creating a new tool to more clearly examine cancer cells called photoacoustic imaging, a process that delivers laser pulses directly to molecules. Should this tool prove successful, Dr Zemp’s work will have a significant impact on how scientific research is conducted going forward.

“The Canadian Cancer Society funds a broad spectrum of research into all types of cancer and doesn’t shy away from unconventional concepts where the work shows great promise,” says Jason Holowachuk, board chair of the Canadian Cancer Society, Alberta/NWT Division. “These grants reflect our belief that a focus on innovative research, such as that being done by Dr Robbins and Dr Zemp, is needed to help unlock breakthroughs and change cancer forever. The more we understand about cancer, the better we can reduce the risk, advance screening and treatment, and improve the lives of Canadians.”

The Canadian Cancer Society awards Innovation Grants twice a year, in the spring and summer. In the second round of funding in 2013, the Society invested more than $7.2 million in 37 cancer research projects across the country.

About the Innovation Grant

The goal of the Canadian Cancer Society Innovation Grant is to support unconventional concepts, approaches and methodologies to address problems in cancer research. All awarded projects include elements of creativity, curiosity, investigation, exploration and opportunity. The studies are ranked according to their potential for high reward – meaning their ability to significantly impact our understanding of cancer and generate new approaches to combat the disease by introducing novel ideas into use or practice.

About the Canadian Cancer Society

For 75 years, the Canadian Cancer Society has been with Canadians in the fight for life. We have been relentless in our commitment to prevent cancer, fund research and support Canadians touched by cancer. We are working together with Canadians to change cancer forever so fewer Canadians are diagnosed with the disease and more survive. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website 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:

Paula Trotter

Communications Coordinator

Phone: 403-541-2339