Last year, Canadian Cancer Society-funded researchers continued to discover ways to reduce cancer incidence and mortality and enhance the quality of life for Canadians living with and beyond cancer. Here are the top 10 research discoveries of 2011.



Landmark trial finds exemestane significantly reduces risk of breast cancer
A clinical trial investigating a new way to prevent breast cancer in women at increased risk of developing the disease found that the drug exemestane reduces this risk by 65%. The trial was led by the NCIC Clinical Trials Group. This discovery was recognized by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) as one of the world's most important cancer treatment breakthroughs in 2011. 

New surveillance protocol improves survival for individuals at high risk for cancer
A Toronto research team led by Dr David Malkin found that a new cancer surveillance protocol dramatically improves survival for adults and children with Li-Fraumeni syndrome, a hereditary disease that significantly increases a person’s cancer risk. The study found that those under surveillance had a 100% survival rate after cancer was detected. For those not under surveillance, the survival rate was 21%.

Drug “holiday” will change standard of care for men with recurring prostate cancer
A trial led by the NCIC Clinical Trials Group found that men with prostate cancer who are treated with intermittent courses of androgen-suppressing (hormone) therapy live as long as those receiving continuous therapy. The results are expected to change current treatment protocols and reduce some of the side effects of hormone therapy, including impotence. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), where the research was selected as the “Best of ASCO”.

Practice-changing cancer trial shows additional radiation decreases cancer recurrence
A Canadian-led clinical trial has found that additional radiation improves disease-free survival in women with early breast cancer by more than 30% and reduces the risk of cancer recurrence. The finding could change the standard treatment for these women. The trial was led by the NCIC Clinical Trials Group. This discovery was recognized by the American Society of Clinical Oncology as one of the world's most important cancer treatment breakthroughs in 2011.

Discovery of human blood stem cell could end search for bone marrow
With his research team in Toronto, Dr John Dick identified a human blood stem cell that is capable of regenerating the entire blood system. This finding could lead to new ways of treating cancer and other debilitating diseases more effectively.

New insight into genetics of ovarian cancer development
Dr Abou Elela in Sherbrooke screened ovarian cancer cells and identified several variants in their genetic material that control growth and survival. This work provides insight into the genetic factors that contribute to the development of ovarian cancer and cancer biology in general.

New imaging method could more accurately detect lung cancer
Dr Haishan Zeng in Vancouver led a pilot study testing a new technology – laser Raman Spectroscopy (LRS) – to determine if it could improve the detection of lung cancers. Dr Zeng and his research team found that LRS was able to detect pre-cancerous lesions with a 96% sensitivity and a 91% specificity, when used with existing methods. The application of LRS, which was developed in British Columbia, could improve early detection of lung cancer and reduce the number of false positives associated with other methods.

Researcher develops tumour-killing nanoparticles
Dr Gang Zheng in Toronto developed a new class of nanoparticles, called porphysomes, which target and destroy tumours. When they collect in tumours, porphysomes convert light from a laser into energy that kils cancer cells. This work earned Dr Zheng the University Health Network Inventor of the Year Award.

Findings may provide new treatment option for childhood leukemia
Leading one of the first studies of its kind to investigate the role of the KIR genes in the development of childhood leukemia, Dr Ali Ahmad and his research team in Montreal showed that children who inherited activating KIR genes had a decreased risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The findings provide insight into the underlying cause of ALL and may also reveal a new therapeutic option by targeting KIR proteins.

Survey finds more young men using smokeless tobacco
The Youth Smoking Survey, which examined the use of smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco and snuff) by Canadian youth between 2004 and 2008, found that young men are the prime users of smokeless tobacco. The highest use is among young men in Western Canada. The survey findings help in the development, implementation and evaluation of tobacco control strategies, policies and programs for young people. The survey was funded by Health Canada and conducted by the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, a Canadian Cancer Society-funded program at the University of Waterloo.




Published Monday, January 23, 2012

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