Innovative look at old molecule could lead to better outcomes for a hard-to-treat cancer

30 October 2013


An unconventional way of looking at a long-known molecule has garnered a Guelph scientist new funding and could lead to better treatment options for lung cancer, the Canadian Cancer Society announced today in recognition of Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November.

With a low survival rate of only 17%, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada, taking the lives of more Canadians than breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined. Dr Roger Moorehead, Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Guelph, has been awarded $200,000 for new research looking at the role a molecule called Akt plays in lung cancer.

Researchers have been interested in Akt and its role in cancer growth for some time. In fact, a compound that inhibits this molecule is currently being tested in clinical trials for lung cancer. While it’s known that there are a few different forms of the molecule, the conventional view has been that all forms promote cancer growth.

However, Dr Moorehead and his team made an important discovery that challenges this widely accepted view. His team discovered that the forms of Akt are not the same and, in fact, one actually prevents cancer growth.

Dr Moorehead’s team will study two different versions of the Akt molecule in greater detail to further understand their effects. They will also examine whether using a compound that inhibits only the cancer-promoting form of Akt is a more effective treatment strategy for lung cancer than targeting all forms.

“I’m grateful for the Canadian Cancer Society’s funding because this support allows us to explore an unconventional idea that very few are examining,” says Dr Moorehead. “Seeing opposing actions for different forms of this molecule is not widely accepted. It is crucial that we examine this view further, as it could improve treatment for lung cancer and help save lives.”

Including the new Innovation Grant, Dr Moorehead has received a total of nearly $700,000 in research funding from the Society since 2009, and the Society is pleased to continue supporting his research and innovative ideas.

“We’re committed to investing in innovative research that takes a bold approach to cancer research, to help generate new ways to look at the cancer puzzle and find more effective therapies for patients, especially for hard-to-treat cancers such as lung cancer,” says Dr Siân Bevan, Director of Research, Canadian Cancer Society. “We couldn’t make this impact without the support of our donors and supporters.”

Quick facts

  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. In 2013, it is estimated:
    • 20,200 will die from lung cancer.
    • 9,200 will die from colorectal cancer
    • 5,000 women will die from breast cancer
    • 3,900 men will die from prostate cancer
  • Lung cancer deaths represent 27% of all cancer deaths in 2013.
  • 5-year relative survival (estimates for 2006–08): Males 14%; Females 20%.

About the Innovation Grants

The Society’s Innovation Grants were developed to support innovative and creative problem-solving in cancer research. The goal is to support unconventional concepts, approaches or methodologies to address problems in cancer research. A total of 37 new grants worth more than $7 million across the country were announced in August, with 18 in Ontario alone. The Canadian Cancer Society is the largest national charitable funder of cancer research in Canada. For more information about the Society’s research funding, visit

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is the only national charity that supports Canadians with all cancers in communities across the country. No other organization does what we do; we are the voice for Canadians who care about cancer. We fund groundbreaking research, provide a support system for all those affected by cancer and advocate to governments for important social change.

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For more information, please contact:

Justin Edmonstone

Public Affairs

Canadian Cancer Society

Ontario Division

Phone: 416-323-7026