While cancer remains the leading cause of death in Canada — a recent report by the Canadian Cancer Society estimated that in 2012, 200 Canadians died of cancer every day — the past 30 years have seen major developments in understanding the genetics, biology and treatment of the disease.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, the cancer death rate dropped 21 per cent in men and nine per cent in women between 1988 and 2007. Investigations leading to new explanations and solutions to cancer are in full force in the quest to reduce mortality rates and enhance the quality of life for Canadians living with and beyond cancer.
‘Tis the season for hope and joy, and we have good reason to be hopeful about controlling cancer. Recently, we reported that mistletoe could help fight colon cancer. On another optimistic note, we offer the top 10 cancer research stories of 2012, compiled by the Canadian Cancer Society.
Our gallery below celebrates the gains that cancer researchers have made:
Deadly Form Of Breast Cancer Decoded
Triple negative breast cancer is a difficult form of cancer to treat, but for the first time ever, an international team of scientists have decoded its genetic makeup. Knowing more about these genes could change the way the disease is diagnosed and change treatments for the next generation, creating more personalized care.
New Ways To Treat Malignant Childhood Brain Cancer
Dr. Michael Taylor, based in Toronto, was part of the international MAGIC (Medulloblastoma Advanced Genomics International Consortium) team of experts that identified abnormalities that lead to the development of the malignant brain tumour medulloblastama. This discovery has identified more effective treatments and may spare children the side effects of unnecessary radiation.
Improving Survival For Patients With Rare Form Of Pancreatic Cancer
Though there are typically poor survival rates for those living with pancreatic cancer, new findings may improve these rates of survival. An NCIC Clinical Trials Group study found that patients with a rare form of pancreatic cancer – periampullary adenocarcinoma – live longer if they are treated with surgery as well as chemotherapy.
Hodgkin Lymphoma Patients Live Longer With Chemotherapy Alone
A trial led by the NCIC Clinical Trials Group found that patients with limited-stage Hodgkin lymphoma live longer when treated with standard chemotherapy compared with those who are also receiving radiation. This will allow patients to avoid long-term side effects of radiation.
Key Barriers To Palliative Care Identified
A study led by Dr. Camilla Zimmermann in Toronto found that Canadian oncologists refer terminally ill cancer patients to palliative care too late — sometimes not until the final few days. The availability and comprehensiveness of palliative care services were identified as key barriers. It was found that referring patients earlier allows care teams to relieve symptoms and distress, provide appropriate social services, and give advanced care advice to improve the quality of life for cancer patients.
Natural Sea Sponge Can Prevent Muscle Wasting
Muscle wasting, also referred to as Cachexia, is the loss of weight or muscle often induced by cancer. Approximately 30 per cent of people with cancer die due to muscle wasting. Dr. Imed Gallouzi and his research team in Montreal found that a natural product from sea sponges prevents muscle wasting in mice. This study is the first to show a potential treatment option for those affected by muscle wasting.
Drug Destroys Human Cancer Stem Cells But Spares Healthy Ones
Dr. Mick Bhatia, an international leader in cancer stem cell research, discovered that the drug thioridazine can successfully kill cancer stem cells responsible for initiating leukemias without causing any harm to normal stem cells. This is an important discovery, as cancer stem cells can sustain the growth of cancer and are also a common factor in cancer recurrence.
Smarter Treatments Developed For Rare Young Adult Cancer
Dr.Torsten Nielsen and his Vancouver-based research team have unravelled how the genetic mutation which leads to the growth of a rare and often fatal form of cancer (synovial sarcoma) interacts with proteins to cause cancer. The researchers found that there are certain drugs used to suppress these proteins that can kill tumour cells.
Vitamin D Controls Proteins To Stop The Growth Of Cancer
Dr. John White and his research group in Montreal studied a protein called the cMYC protein, which is elevated in at least 50 per cent of cancers. Researchers found that vitamin D can block cMYC. This evidence will spark future studies to understand the role Vitamin D plays in stopping cancer development and growth.
Mefloquine Drug Shows Promise In Fighting Cancer
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that can become severe if not treated quickly. Dr. Aaron Schimmer and colleagues in Toronto tested several drugs to determine whether any of them could target AML cells. The researchers found that mefloquine, a medication generally used to treat malaria, specifically causes AML cancer cells to burst.