A breakthrough in stopping brain metastases -- before it begins

14 April 2019

It's one of our most vital organs, and your support is helping protect it. The brain is central to our health but it is also where cancer will spread for 4 in 10 people living with cancer — most commonly breast, colon, kidney, lung or skin cancer.

Brain metastases is a unique form of cancer and unfortunately, very difficult to treat. But, as a caring Canadian Cancer Society supporter, you are helping prevent this and instead, helping to drive progress.

Your contributions have helped to back a transformative study by Dr Sheila Singh and her team: the first ever of its kind, which thoroughly investigated the pre-metastatic stage — a previously unknown area.

"Brain metastases is an understudied field," says Dr Singh, citing the importance of closely exploring it, through your support. "When we diagnose it in patients, we know that they have a primary cancer and all of a sudden, they have a secondary cancer in their brain. We really don’t have a clear idea of the process in between — only a start and an endpoint."

Thankfully, this important study is helping to shed light on the critical stage of cancer spread.
lifesaving research
"The money you donate to CCS enables the most innovative discoveries. These discoveries may take a long time, but you can rest assured that there will be a big, long-term payoff when they lead to some new kind of therapy or cure," says Dr. Sheila Singh, pictured here (at back) with her team.

With the help of your support, Dr Singh and her team developed an innovative way to study brain metastases at the pre-metastatic stage — specifically looking to when lung cancer cells have spread but not yet formed a tumour.

"We were able to track cancer cells through every stage of how they get to the brain,” she explains. “We could capture every step of the metastatic process."

And, once they could truly understand it, they could look for ways to treat it. They found that a drug called apomorphine can prevent brain tumour formation by specifically targeting pre-metastatic cancer cells – a thrilling result they hope to use to tackle other forms of cancer metastases.
"There are almost no targeted therapies for brain metastases. Our research provides a model," she adds. "That, in itself, is a big breakthrough."

She hopes to find a drug that could target pre-metastatic genes, allowing her to treat those at risk upfront to stop the spread of cancer cells, long before a second tumour forms.

"If you can cure brain metastases before they are full blown or prevent them altogether, you’re going to give these cancer survivors, who are already surviving their primary cancers, an even longer lifespan," she says.

This big breakthrough could only happen thanks to YOU. Thank you for supporting Canadians living with metastatic cancer.