Understanding why non-smokers develop lung cancer among research projects funded by Canadian Cancer Society

    VANCOUVER, May 6 /CNW/ - A new BC-based study aimed at understanding the
genetic basis of lung cancer in people who have never smoked is being funded
for approximately $379,000 by the Canadian Cancer Society.
    Seven new British Columbian grants were awarded to outstanding,
top-ranking researchers at the BC Cancer Agency, University of British
Columbia and the University of Victoria. These researchers are undertaking
promising studies in a wide variety of cancer research projects. The combined
total investment in seven new and twenty-three continuing grants in BC is
approximately $23 million.
    "A better understanding of the genetic changes that leads to the
development of lung cancer in Dr Lam's project may reveal opportunities for
earlier diagnosis and intervention in both non-smokers and smokers," said
Barbara Kaminsky, CEO, Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon Division. "With
the terrible outcomes in lung cancer patients, we must discover better ways of
helping these people survive and hopefully thrive."
    The other new BC based projects focus on better methods to improve the
detection of cancers earlier and to find more effective, less harmful
    "Funding outstanding research has always been an important part of the
Canadian Cancer Society's strategy to eradicate cancer and improve the lives
of people living with cancer. While there has been great progress over the
years, some types of cancer are proving to be very challenging," says
Kaminsky. "British Columbians may not be aware that important, world class
research is taking place here that were made possible by donations from our
generous supporters."
    The Canadian Cancer Society is the largest national charitable funder of
cancer research in Canada. In total approximately $33 million has been newly
invested in 71 outstanding projects throughout the country. The grants were
selected after a rigorous national application and review process.

    The new BC grants are:

    Dr. Wan Lam, BC Cancer Agency (Vancouver)
    Dr Lam and his team will study the genes and genetic mutations involved
in the development of lung cancer in people who do not smoke - a group that
represents an increasing proportion of lung cancer sufferers. Using a new type
of computer software that they developed, Dr. Lam and his team will compare
the genetic profile of tumours in smokers and non-smokers to identify if there
are different genes mutated in non-smoker lung cancers.

    A/Prof David Perrin, University of British Columbia
    Dr. Perrin's lab is working to create even better PET scan (Positron
Emission Tomography) images through development of a new radioactive drug that
is easier to produce and is detected by the scan after being injected into the
patient and travelling to cancer sites.

    Dr. Catherine Poh, University of British Columbia
    Dr. Poh is doing the first study into the use of a new hand-held optical
tool in the identification of high-risk, pre-cancerous lesions in the mouth
during exploratory surgery. It is hoped that this tool could lead to earlier
diagnosis, a drop in deaths and a reduction of cancer recurrence.

    Dr. Jeremy Wulff, University of Victoria
    Dr. Wulff's research team is developing new molecules that interfere with
two proteins known to contribute to pancreatic cancer. Research has already
suggested that this treatment could work together with another existing
pancreatic cancer therapy to kill off the tumour without dangerous
side-effects for the patient.

    Dr. Haishan Zeng, BC Cancer Agency (Vancouver)
    In collaboration with Dr. Stephen Lam, Dr. Zeng will conduct a clinical
study of accuracy and usefulness of laser technology they developed to detect
early signs of lung cancer. It is hoped that this diagnostic device may push
the current detection rate of 67% to higher than 90% for the new probe.

    Dr. Christopher Overall, University of British Columbia
    Proteases - enzymes that act as a handy molecular knife, cutting proteins
to their right sizes - are thrown into imbalance and changed function when
there is cancer. Dr. Overall's team has developed a sophisticated new
technique called degradomics to study tumour samples and see which proteases
are present, the proteins they target and which ones are best suited to drug
treatments without major harm to the rest of the body.

    Dr. Alan So, University of British Columbia
    Dr. So's lab has already seen promising results in mice from the use of
two special viruses - VSV and AV3 - to treat "superficial" bladder cancer.
This study will examine the safety and effectiveness of the treatment,
including how well the treatment virus is able to penetrate tumour cells while
leaving normal cells undisturbed.
    For a complete list of the new Canadian Cancer Society-funded research
grants across the country, visit Cancer Research pages on www.cancer.ca.

    NOTE FOR MEDIA: Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon CEO, Barbara
Kaminsky is available for interviews. The family member of a non-smoker who
died of lung cancer at the age of 47 is also available for interviews. Dr Wan
Lam is available for telephone interviews from the US where he is currently
attending a meeting. Please contact Kristine Carrick, Manager Media Relations
(contact details below).

For further information:

For further information: Kristine Carrick, Manager, Media Relations,
Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon, Direct Line: (604) 675-7340, Mobile:
(604) 831-2598, Email: kcarrick@bc.cancer.ca

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Canadian Cancer Society (BC and Yukon Division)

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