Study of arsenic in drinking water and cancer risk: among 71 new grants announced by the Canadian Cancer Society

    TORONTO, May 6 /CNW/ - A cancer prevention study, funded by the Canadian
Cancer Society's new Prevention Initiative, will investigate the risk of
bladder and kidney cancer associated with environmental exposure to arsenic in
drinking water. The study is one of 71 new research grants announced today by
the Canadian Cancer Society.
    "These important new projects represent tremendous hope for making cancer
history, and we are excited to add them to our portfolio of research
investments," says Dr Christine Williams, Director of Research, Canadian
Cancer Society Research Institute. "Funding research continues to be
absolutely critical to our mission of eradicating cancer and enhancing the
quality of life of people living with cancer. We are very grateful to our
donors for making the research possible."
    The other new grants announced today (see below) represent a broad range
of research funded by the Canadian Cancer Society - from prevention studies to
genetics, biology, immunology, psychosocial issues to palliative care. These
grants are selected through a rigorous peer-review process.
    The Canadian Cancer Society is the largest national charitable funder of
cancer research in Canada.

    Nova Scotia drinking water study

    Dr Louise Parker, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, is the Canadian
Cancer Society Endowed Chair in Population Cancer Research. She will receive
$575,000 over three years to carry out a study of cancer risk and drinking
water quality. "In many parts of Canada, a large proportion of the population
gets its drinking water from untreated water wells," says Dr Parker. "In Nova
Scotia, it's particularly high, with 45 per cent of households relying on well
    Dr Parker will examine the cancer risk of low to moderate levels of
arsenic in drinking water. She says the research will help policy-makers in
Nova Scotia and elsewhere in Canada decide whether the cancer risk warrants
new approaches to water testing and treatment.
    Arsenic occurs naturally in some rock types and can leach into drinking
water through drilled or dug wells. Both tasteless and odourless, arsenic at
high levels is known to cause cancer - specifically kidney, bladder, lung and
skin cancers - but it is not clear how much arsenic people are consuming and
how this is affecting their risk of cancer.
    Arsenic levels of up to 700 micrograms per litre have been reported at
some wells in Nova Scotia. Health Canada has set an acceptable upper limit of
10 micrograms per litre of water.
    Dr Parker will carry out the study by using extensive data on bladder and
kidney cancer rates in Nova Scotia and mapping these data to different
measurements of arsenic accumulation in participants' bodies and in their
drinking water.
    Health Canada recommends that Canadians living in areas where there are
high levels of arsenic in the groundwater have their drinking water tested for
arsenic contamination.

    More new grants

    Also among the 71 new research grants announced today by the Society:

    The cost of cancer

    Dr Murray Krahn, Toronto, will receive $675,000 over four years to
investigate the healthcare costs of treating 18 of the most common cancers in
Ontario and BC. Understanding the costs and cost-effectiveness of cancer
treatments is crucial for those making funding decisions for the cancer care

    Lung cancer

    More Canadians die of lung cancer than of breast, prostate and colon
cancers combined. Several new lung cancer research grants were awarded,

    Dr Wan Lam, Vancouver, will use detailed genetic comparisons to
investigate why some people who have never smoked get lung cancer ($379,000
over three years).

    Dr Linda Penn, Toronto, will develop a new molecular diagnostic tool to
root out and target the most aggressive, fast-growing lung cancers ($637,000
over five years).

    Dr Ming Sound Tsao, Toronto, will use genetic analysis to determine which
early-stage lung cancer patients are at risk of having their cancer come back
after surgery and which patients are most likely to benefit from chemotherapy
in addition to surgery. This will help develop a more personalized approach
and prevent damaging side effects caused by unnecessary treatment ($690,000
over five years).

    Family issues

    Diet and breast cancer prevention: Dr Michelle Cotterchio, Toronto, will
examine whether phytoestrogen-rich foods - such as soy, flaxseeds, fruits and
vegetables - are associated with a lower risk of developing certain types of
breast cancers ($158,000 over two years).

    HPV and cervical cancer: Most sexually active women will have at least
one infection from the human papillomavirus (HPV). Dr Jacques Archambault,
Montreal, will study genetic variations in HPV to determine why only some of
these women develop cancer ($510,000 over four years).

    Childhood brain cancer: Brain cancers are very aggressive, and many are
resistant to treatment. Dr Peter Dirks, Toronto, will investigate whether the
different types of cells within brain tumours may need different types of
therapies in order to effectively treat the cancer ($549,000 over four years).

    Pancreatic cancer

    Lowest survival rate

    Patients with pancreatic cancer face a very grim prognosis. Dr Jeremy
Wulff, Victoria, is working to develop a completely new type of drug molecule
that blocks the interaction between two proteins known to play a role in
causing pancreatic cancer. It is hoped that this will one day lead to new
treatment options for patients ($35,000 for one year).

    For a complete list of the new Canadian Cancer Society-funded research
grants across the country, visit

    About the Prevention Initiative

    The Canadian Cancer Society believes that at least 50 per cent of cancers
can be prevented. This year, the Society awarded the first set of research
grants within a special Cancer Prevention Initiative. The projects will
advance the field of cancer prevention research by identifying interventions
against modifiable risk factors and conditions. These include behaviours,
biological factors, occupational exposures or environmental conditions that
may be changed to reduce the risk of developing cancer.
    The Canadian Cancer Society will invest approximately $3 million a year
in this new initiative.

    About the Society

    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. In 2007/2008, the Canadian
Cancer Society spent $49.5 million on research. When you want to know more
about cancer, visit our website at or call our toll-free,
bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/

For further information:

For further information: English Media: Christine Harminc, Canadian
Cancer Society, (416) 934-5650,; French Media: Alexa
Giorgi, Canadian Cancer Society, (416) 934-5681,

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