Ontario lung cancer research gets boost from Canadian Cancer Society



    TORONTO, May 1 /CNW/ - The Canadian Cancer Society today announced
funding for new research initiatives across Canada including 41 new research
projects in Ontario. These grants range from laboratory investigations of the
causes of cancer to new studies of treatment and care. These leading-edge
cancer research projects bring the Society's total investment in cancer
research to almost $49 million in 2008.
    Included in the announcement is funding for an unprecedented seven new
lung cancer research projects thanks to an infusion of $1.3 million made
possible by the generosity and efforts of Society donors and volunteers in
Ontario.
    "Lung cancer has always been under-funded," says Dr. Douglas Gray, who
holds the University of Ottawa Joan Sealy Chair in Lung Cancer Research and is
a recipient of one of the new grants.
    Lung cancer is the highest cause of cancer death in Ontario. About 85% of
lung cancer is attributable to tobacco use.
    Few people understand that lung cancer is also a disease of aging,
according to Dr. Gray. Those under 30 rarely get the disease, but the risk
rises dramatically after midlife, even in lifetime non-smokers.
    "Lung cancer occurs when the DNA in our cells is not repaired, allowing
mutations to accumulate over time. My work studies the question of how these
mutations accumulate," says Dr. Gray.
    Dr. Gray already has a track record of success; he discovered one of the
first genes in a pathway now known to control DNA repair. This new funding
will allow him to study DNA repair in a group of recently discovered lung
cells called BASC (bronchioalveolar stem cells). Most lung cancers are thought
to develop from these cells. If DNA repair could be enhanced in these cells,
it might prevent tumours.
    "I was just starting to think about how my work on DNA repair might apply
to these newly discovered cells, when I heard about the Canadian Cancer
Society's call for lung cancer research proposals," says Dr. Gray. "There are
so few opportunities for lung cancer research, I am enormously grateful to the
Canadian Cancer Society for sponsoring this initiative."
    "The Canadian Cancer Society is unique because our donors' funds are
applied to many types of cancer research," says Peter Goodhand, CEO, Ontario
Division, Canadian Cancer Society. "Our annual grant competition allows us to
fund the best of the best and to see where gaps - and new opportunities -
exist. This perspective has led us to make a strategic investment in lung
cancer research, where a better understanding of the disease and improved
methods of treatment and detection are urgently needed."
    Donna Arenburg is a Canadian Cancer Society volunteer. She helps organize
the annual Relay For Life event in St. Catharines. Relay events take place in
more than 100 communities across Ontario and are the Canadian Cancer Society's
largest annual fundraising event.
    "It's important to me to help raise funds for cancer research, because I
know the risks," says Arenburg. "I survived lung cancer. Research is our best
hope for more survivors and perhaps even to stop lung cancer before it
starts."

    
    Other recipients of new lung cancer grants include:

    -   Dr. Annette McWilliams (British Columbia Cancer Research Centre) is
        studying a novel means of early detection - a chemical vapour sensor
        array ("electronic nose") able to detect the pattern of compounds in
        exhaled breath. If successful, these patterns might ultimately be
        able to predict the presence of an early lung cancer.

    -   Dr. Aaron Wheeler (University of Toronto) will apply new lab-on-a-
        chip technologies to make laboratory screening for new ways of
        detecting lung cancer more accurate and reproducible.

    -   Dr. Amna Husain (Mount Sinai Hospital) will examine the relationship
        between continuity of care and patient supportive care needs in
        advanced lung cancer and propose measures to evaluate the care
        provided to these patients.

    Other Ontario researchers receiving funds from the Canadian Cancer Society
this year include:

    -   Dr. Arun Seth (Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre) has identified a
        gene which appears to become abnormally active in prostate cancer
        tissues. His study will test whether screening for this gene might be
        a useful tool to diagnose prostate cancer or monitor treatment.

    -   Dr. Lillian Sung (The Hospital for Sick Children) treats children
        with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). One in ten of these children will
        die during treatment due to a serious infection. Dr. Sung is studying
        ways to identify children vulnerable to infection so their treatment
        can be personalized to decrease the risk.

    -   Dr. Will King (Queen's University) will examine a measure of cell
        function called DNA methylation in blood and healthy colon tissue
        that may be useful as an early predictor of colorectal cancer risk.
    

    The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of
volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of
the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more
about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual
Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.





For further information:

For further information: Christine Koserski, Media Relations, Canadian
Cancer Society, Ontario Division: (416) 488-5402 x2305,
ckoserski@ontario.cancer.ca

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