Seeking answers to cancer’s questions

Innovation solutions from two Western scientists have received new funding from the Canadian Cancer Society. The grants were two of 28 representing a $5.4 million investment across the country announced today.

Dr. Paula Foster received nearly $200,000 to study how cancer spreads using powerful imaging techniques developed in her lab.

The spread of cancer, known as metastasis, is one of the biggest challenges in cancer treatment, as the disease becomes much more difficult to treat once it spreads. Foster is using innovative MRI technology to study how cancer cells change the tissue environment to which they migrate, before their arrival, in order to support their own growth.

The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry professor’s creative approach of looking at cancer cells’ new destinations rather than the initial tumour could change the current understanding of metastasis and potentially lead to development of new therapies.

Dr. Dale Laird has received nearly $200,000 to study a newly discovered protein found on the surface of melanoma cells.

Laird’s research team will be the first to study this protein’s involvement in skin cancer. The team will explore the innovative idea that this protein may be involved in the growth and spread of harmful melanoma, which is estimated to be responsible for about three-quarters of skin-cancer-related deaths. An estimated 5,800 Canadians will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2012.

The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry professor’s research may provide evidence that this new protein could be a potential target for new drugs to treat melanoma.

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.

“Ontario continues to produce innovative research that ranks among the best in the world. We are proud to support these new projects because they bring a unique perspective in our fight against cancer,” said Mary Argent-Katwala, Canadian Cancer Society research director. “We keenly anticipate the impact that the research will have on the lives of all Canadians.”