Senior Scientist, Childhood Cancer Research Program and Pediatric Genome Sequencing Project, BC Cancer Agency

Pediatric cancer research is gaining recognition as an area of excellence at the BC Cancer Agency. I touched on some of the reasons for this in my previous post, but I also wanted to emphasize that our success is due in no small part to the great community we have here at the BC Cancer Agency.

One area we are really focused on in the Childhood Cancer Research Program is metastasis, or the movement of cancer from one location in the body to another. The outcomes for many childhood cancers haven’t changed much in the past 20 years, because many of them are metastatic diseases, the single biggest killer of childhood cancer patients. Because our understanding of metastatic disease remains limited, we place a lot of emphasis on this area.

Metastasis is the single most important predictor of outcomes in childhood cancers and it is important that we understand this better. But it is difficult to study and requires comprehensive research methods. If we can uncover drugs to treat these diseases, we will be able to make a significant impact.

We are also very focused on childhood sarcomas and are increasing our emphasis on childhood brain tumours as well, because we have seen similar issues in both cancer types: they are often therapy resistant and have poor prognoses. Projects in these areas are indebted to teams like, Team Finn, led by Patrick and Sam Sullivan, and the Riders for Ryder team in the Ride to Conquer Cancer. These and other teams dedicate funds raised to childhood cancer research. Much of the work that I've described simply wouldn't be possible without the support of these inspiring fundraising efforts.

As we make progress in our research, we share our findings within the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), a global network of scientists and researchers in pediatric oncology that allows us to compare notes. It is difficult to understand the significance of a genetic alternation if it is treated differently in different contexts. Within the COG we follow similar protocols so that outcomes are more meaningful to our research. Access to this unique network is very important, and it allows us to have more significant cohorts of research data for stronger and more scientifically and clinically meaningful results.