Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women today. Over 3,600 British Columbians will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Thanks to advancements in screening technology, knowledge and new treatment approaches, many women experience a long-lasting response to breast cancer treatment.
Research is our Foundation
With donor support, research is advancing at a rapid pace. The BC Cancer Agency is a world-leader in breast cancer discovery and patient outcomes. Considered one of the leading scientists on the planet, Dr. Samuel Aparicio and his lab have completely redefined breast cancer into 10 unique subtypes and proven the disease can evolve over time and in response to treatment.
Dr. Aparicio’s team is now building on their findings to test drug resistance in breast cancer and further study how breast cancer cells evolve–these experiments are ongoing and will lead to a greater depth of knowledge to improve patient treatment and care in the future.
Additionally, Dr. Aparicio is co-leading a Dream Team that’s looking at new treatment approaches for triple-negative breast cancer. These novel treatments will be aimed at changes in the genomes of cancer cells that make the tumours unstable and vulnerable to attack.
Breast Cancer Research Initiative
The Breast Cancer Research Initiative, supported by BC Cancer Foundation donors, aims to genomically sequence every breast cancer patient’s tumour at the time of diagnosis, province-wide. The goal is to customize treatment for every patient and track the evolution of the disease over time. Key components of the Initiative include:
- Match genomic mutations with known or new combinations of therapies
- Expand patient outcomes research to understand at the genomic level why some breast cancer patients relapse when others do not
- Use new technology to rapidly identify and analyze genes and proteins that influence cell behaviour
- Test and develop cancer drugs targeted for each patient’s unique cancer
- Develop pharmaceutical agents that will lead into clinical trials
Research at the BC Cancer Agency in Kelowna is looking at breast seed brachytherapy as an effective, less invasive option for breast cancer patients by delivering treatment precisely to the site of the cancer while sparing the rest of the breast and surrounding structures from radiation side effects.
The procedure involves implanting radioactive seeds smaller than a grain of rice around the cancer site – the dose of radiation is then gradually released over a two-month period, preserving the surrounding healthy tissue.
Predicting cancer spread
Dr. Torsten Nielsen and Dr. Hagen Kennecke analyzed 4,000 patients with breast cancer and found that testing for high activity in a gene called “alpha beta crystalline” could identify women at greater risk for developing secondary brain tumours. The study indicates that a test could be developed to predict which women are likely to have disease spread to the brain. Published in a Nature partner journal, this research could help oncologists prevent life-threatening spread of cancer in the future.
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