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					CANCER RESEARCH

Research into Cancer and Aging
For much of the past 100 years, Canada’s population of people aged 65 years or older was roughly five per cent of the total. Now, low fertility rates and longer life expectancy have significantly changed those numbers: between 1981 and 2005 the number of seniors in Canada increased from 2.4 to 4.2 million and their percentage escalated to 13 per cent of the total. Demographers forecast that Canada’s population of seniors will double again over the next 20 years to approximately 9.8 million; that’s close to one third of the country’s total population today. With this in mind, the Alberta Cancer Board is committed to developing a program in Cancer and Aging. A new research Chair in Calgary will play a lead role in representing the biology of aging as related to cancers. As Canadians and Albertans age, their risks of developing cancers, heart disease, osteoarthritis, dementia, macular degeneration and other diseases increase. It is well acknowledged in the scientific community that a better understanding of the physiology of aging and its role in disease development is critical to fostering good health later in life. And prevention of age-related diseases will go a long way towards controlling future health care costs, both the direct medical expenses, and the indirect costs of stress-related illness, insurance claims, lost efficiency and productivity. An aging population is also a population more vulnerable to developing cancers caused by a lifetime of exposure to carcinogens such as pollution, radiation, tobacco and harmful sunrays. As we age, the random genetic mutations that can lead to cancer also occur more frequently. And the body’s DNA repair system, which is constantly on the lookout for dangerous changes that may cause a cell to become cancerous—and abort the cell when such mutations are detected—is less effective as we grow older. Sequencing the human genome has generated significant opportunities to characterize cancer cells and aging cells. A Cancer and Aging Chair and team of researchers will establish a laboratory that would include a tumour bank and a biofluids collection and analysis process, with the key goal to study cell lines of individuals at different ages and provide data on the aging-related components of cancer. The research team will also collaborate with the Canadian Longitudinal Study of Aging and take advantage of the Study’s 20-year exploration of the dynamics of human aging and its impact on the development of diseases. This field of study will complement data obtained from the Tomorrow Project and help us in our steps towards a cancer free future.

An aging population is also a population more vulnerable to developing cancers caused by a lifetime of exposure to carcinogens such as pollution, radiation, tobacco and harmful sunrays.

Provincial Office | 710–10123 99 Street | Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3H1 | P 780.643.4400 | F 780.643.4398 | Toll Free 1.866.412.4222 | www.albertacancer.ca

CANCER RESEARCH

Metabolomics and cancer research
The completion of the Human Genome Project has propelled a growth in scientific knowledge unparalleled in history. This has led to the birth of numerous fields of molecular medicine including genomics, which is the study of an organism’s entire genome, and proteomics, the large-scale study of proteins. The knowledge gained has helped scientists and physicians discover indicators that predispose individuals towards certain diseases and, in turn, to pre-determine whether patients will respond well to specific treatments. Enter metabolomics, the newborn cousin of genomics and proteomics. Metabolomics is the study of a full complement of metabolites (small molecules) that are present in biofluids such as urine, serum, and cerebrospinal fluid, for example. These chemicals, called metabolites because they are a product of the body’s biochemical processes, or metabolism, change with stress, diet, health and disease. That variation in the chemical signatures makes researchers think that they can use metabolomics to establish a more complete picture of wellness and disease. This has exciting possibilities for cancer research. Imagine being able to diagnose cancer through a simple blood test, detect a recurrence of cancer before it can be imaged, or determine the effectiveness of treatment through an easy urine test. Collecting biofluids from cancer patients and examining them with a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, and/or High Resolution Mass Spectrometry will deliver vital data that can determine the molecular make-up of cancer tumours and lead to improvements in both diagnosis and treatment. The Alberta Cancer Board is dedicated to establishing a fully equipped metabolomics research facility in Alberta that will attract world-class leaders in the field. And with this, we could one day give the world the most advanced and comprehensive understanding of cancers ever.

Imagine being able to diagnose cancer through a simple blood test, detect a recurrence of cancer before it can be imaged, or determine the effectiveness of treatment through an easy urine test.

Provincial Office | 710–10123 99 Street | Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3H1 | P 780.643.4400 | F 780.643.4398 | Toll Free 1.866.412.4222 | www.albertacancer.ca

CANCER RESEARCH

Chair in Palliative Care
When we think of suffering from cancer, we typically think of physical pain and discomfort. But suffering also stems from fear, pain and worry, and all the psychological, physiological and intellectual complexities and dimensions associated with this. The Alberta Cancer Board believes the relief of suffering is a fundamental human right. Alberta Cancer Board caregivers and researchers are continually exploring more effective ways to manage cancer pain and suffering, and to develop and communicate innovative new strategies to Alberta’s physicians about progress in this area. A new approach to reducing pain and suffering for cancer patients is being coordinated in southern Alberta. In July 2006, the Psychosocial and Supportive Care Program and the Palliative Care service at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre joined together to deliver comprehensive, seamless services to cancer patients throughout the region. The program helps patients find and access support when needed, and reduces suffering and anxiety for those affected by cancer and their families. This is one example of an increasing focus on psychosocial support for cancer patients, and of the importance of end-of-life care for cancer patients and their families. Jean-Michel Turc, President of the Alberta Cancer Board says, “We need to do everything possible to ensure [our patients’] days are still filled with life.” In fact, the elimination of pain and suffering for cancer patients is one of the goals the Alberta Cancer Board has set for the year 2025, along with goals to reduce both the incidence and mortality of cancers. A new Chair in Palliative Care will lead a team of researchers and caregivers in conducting innovative research and clinical trials on methods of treatment to reduce physical pain for palliative patients; explore issues surrounding malnutrition in the palliative patient; and work in collaboration with the Enbridge Chair in Psychosocial Oncology to help eliminate suffering for all those living with cancer. “We need to consistently apply what we know about controlling pain and suffering,” says Dr. Turc. We need to continually find ways of improving our care and support for those at their end of life. And we need to work diligently to relieve all suffering for anyone with a cancer diagnosis.”

The Alberta Cancer Board believes the relief of suffering is a fundamental human right.

Provincial Office | 710–10123 99 Street | Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3H1 | P 780.643.4400 | F 780.643.4398 | Toll Free 1.866.412.4222 | www.albertacancer.ca

CANCER RESEARCH

Non-Invasive Tumour Imaging Program Group
As a world leader in patient care and cancer research, the Alberta Cancer Board takes its responsibility in the development of new and more effective targeted cancer therapies very seriously. Improved information about how a tumour develops and grows is key to targeted treatments. Since the discovery of the x-ray more than 100 years ago, imaging has become an essential diagnostic tool in every aspect of clinical medicine. As technology improves and our basic understanding of the molecular properties of cancer tumours grows, imaging will continue to play a vital role in both cancer diagnosis and treatment. The Alberta Cancer Board envisions an innovative new facility situated in research labspace in Calgary that will help researchers and caregivers unravel some of the many puzzles of cancers. The facility dedicated to non-invasive tumour imaging will provide oncologists with the capability to visually examine tumours and to determine their molecular profile without invasive surgery. We already have a great start on the team required for such a facility with two of the most prominent neuro-oncologists in the country now situated at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary: Drs. Peter Forsyth and Greg Cairncross. The two currently lead an exceptional crew of young oncologists and scientists who make up the Brain Tumour Research and Treatment Team. This team is trying to map the molecular signature of a specific brain tumour. If successful, the knowledge they gain will enable oncologists to clearly identify the stage and type of tumour through imaging alone, without the need for patients to undergo surgery, which is always frightening, and particularly when it involves the brain. Advanced imaging can also point to the best possible treatment route based on the molecular biology of the tumour, and not solely on its size and location. Establishing a facility dedicated to non-invasive tumour imaging is just one step toward improving diagnosis, treatment and care for those with cancer. The findings of the Brain Tumour Research and Treatment Team will eventually be applied to other tumours, such as breast and prostate, thus revolutionizing and transforming the current practice of cancer treatment.

The Alberta Cancer Board envisions an innovative new facility dedicated to non-invasive tumour imaging that will help researchers and caregivers unravel some of the many puzzles of cancers.

Provincial Office | 710–10123 99 Street | Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3H1 | P 780.643.4400 | F 780.643.4398 | Toll Free 1.866.412.4222 | www.albertacancer.ca

CANCER RESEARCH

Cancer Stem Cell Core Facility
The ultimate goal for cancer treatment is to target therapies to destroy tumours and kill cancers. New knowledge now suggests that one of the most effective ways to do this may be through the destruction of cancer stem cell populations. There is growing evidence that a small population of cells within many different types of tumours, called cancer stem cells, may be the critical cell population driving full-fledged tumour growth. The hypothesis, if right, could explain why tumours often regenerate even after being nearly destroyed by anticancer drugs. It also points to the need for a different strategy for developing anticancer drugs, suggesting they should be selected for lethality to destroy cancer stem cells and not, as at present, for their ability to kill just any cells and shrink tumours. While cancer stem cells are now thought to be important in the development of most, if not all cancers, initial efforts of Alberta Cancer Board researchers will focus on cancer stem cells in three types of cancer: lung, colorectal and brain. Why the focus on these three cancers? Lung and colorectal cancer are among the most common cancers in Canada and responsible for the largest number of deaths from cancer. Brain cancer, though less common, typically progresses rapidly with devastating results. Researchers have also had success in isolating and studying cancer stem cells in brain tumours. A new cancer stem cell core facility in Calgary will provide the infrastructure to systematically isolate, grow and characterize cancer stem cells from these three cancers; research can then be extended to other cancers types where appropriate. New treatments targeting cancer stem cells will be developed utilizing chemical, antibody and viral approaches. This is a unique opportunity to be involved in leading edge cancer research. An Alberta Cancer Stem Cell Core Facility will accelerate the process of discovery as to what drives tumour growth, and expand our understanding of how to treat cancers more effectively.

There is growing evidence that a small population of cells within many different types of tumours, called cancer stem cells, may be the critical cell population driving full-fledged tumour growth.

Provincial Office | 710–10123 99 Street | Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3H1 | P 780.643.4400 | F 780.643.4398 | Toll Free 1.866.412.4222 | www.albertacancer.ca

CANCER RESEARCH

The Tomorrow Project
Enormous advances in the understanding of cancer etiology have occurred over the past four decades. While a great deal of new knowledge has been generated at the cellular level through cancer research, there have also been significant gains in our understanding of the environmental, personal and behavioural antecedents to cancer at the population level. It is in this arena that the Alberta Cancer Board will make the biggest strides towards a cancer free future. The Tomorrow Project aims to collect information from 50,000 Albertans over a 50-year period. The wealth of data on such a large group of healthy Albertans will provide invaluable clues on what goes wrong when cancer or some other chronic disease later develops. It has been estimated that as many as 50 per cent of cancers diagnosed in the western world could be prevented by improving diet, increasing physical activity and eliminating smoking. However, there are still many questions concerning cancer risk and prevention that remain unanswered. For example, how does genetic predisposition influence the development of cancer and can a healthy diet and physically active lifestyle counterbalance any genetic predisposition? The Alberta Cancer Board’s Tomorrow Project began in 2000, and was envisaged from the outset as a ‘population laboratory’. The underlying concept of such a ‘laboratory’ is that healthy people are followed for a long time, periodically providing updated health and lifestyle information, as well as blood samples. As the project matures, layers of complex information will be analyzed to determine the characteristics that distinguish those who develop cancer from those who do not. The data will also contribute to an increased understanding of other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. To date, almost 25,000 adults from all over the province of Alberta have joined the study, and have consented to provide updated information until the age of 85 years. The retention rate to date is 91 per cent meaning the information already compiled is valid and beneficial. The Tomorrow Project may one day lead to the development of highly effective cancer prevention programs. Ultimately, this means healthier Albertans, and a healthier Alberta.

It has been estimated that as many as 50 per cent of cancers diagnosed in the western world could be prevented by improving diet, increasing physical activity and eliminating smoking.

Provincial Office | 710–10123 99 Street | Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3H1 | P 780.643.4400 | F 780.643.4398 | Toll Free 1.866.412.4222 | www.albertacancer.ca


				
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posted:12/26/2009
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