Hello again - We had another important week at the BC Cancer Agency last week, including a province-wide meeting to discuss a new pancreatic cancer initiative. Any doctor in British Columbia will be able to refer complex patients to clinical rounds to get an opinion about the best way to treat the cancer.

This takes a lot of cooperation between surgeons, radiologists (the people that read the CT scans and MRIs) and medical oncologists like myself. For complicated cancers like pancreas, the best way to treat them is by having multiple doctors involved, so this should really help people with these cancers.

In my last post, I mentioned the outcomes research that we have done for our patients with colorectal and other cancers. One really interesting thing we recently looked at are the patients who receive chemotherapy treatment and those who do not. This information makes us more aware of how best to use new treatments.

We also looked at the benefit of chemotherapy and liver surgery for advanced colorectal cancers in the past 15 years. Results show that both the new treatments and surgery have contributed equally to helping people live longer with their cancer. Not everyone is able to have their cancer removed from the liver, so we still need to work at better ways to treat the cancers with targeted agents.

We have also done a study to look at the outcomes of people with early-stage colon cancer (tumours that were removed with surgery and did not go to the lymph nodes). We found that most people with cancers like this only need surgery and do not need any further chemotherapy. However, if the tumours were large, chemotherapy treatment resulted in better outcomes and the cancers were less likely to come back. So we always make sure that we look at the size of the colon cancer to determine the most appropriate treatment plan.

One of the major priorities in cancer research right now is to figure out who needs chemotherapy and who does not. The objective is to treat everyone’s cancer individually, instead of everyone the same. This is one of the main objectives of the BC Cancer Agency Oncopanel that is currently being developed. In the very near future, we will be able to study all advanced colorectal cancers with a larger panel of tests, so that we figure out all the unique aspects of the cancer. This is really the direction that things are moving in.

In the next five years, cancer research is going to look much different than it does today. If you are interested in hearing about this, stay tuned for my final post later this week!

Best,
Hagen

Medical Oncologist and Professional Practice Leader, Medical Oncology, BC Cancer Agency