Medical Oncologist, Provincial Director – Systemic Therapy Clinical Trials

There are a lot of exciting developments happening right now in the realm of clinical research at BC Cancer. New discoveries are being put to the test with the potential to save more lives and reduce the burden of treatment on patients. We're one of the very few places in the world capable of conducting this kind of transformative research.

One such trial is making waves for its potential to better detect cancer using a simple blood test. For cancers such as lymphoid, sometimes the only way to prevent the disease from spreading is surgery, removing all lymph nodes that have the potential to be cancerous. We've discovered that some patients may have markers in their blood that can predict if their cancer will spread and, in addition, what area it may spread to.

This kind of knowledge will allow us to better target treatment efforts, and significantly reduce the burden of treatment on patients. Experiments on this type of blood test are now in development, and we’re tremendously excited about it.

Another cancer type that is seeing rapid improvement is bladder cancer, my research area. Over the past 30 years, we've had little to no breakthroughs in bladder cancer – a disease that had only an 8-month life expectancy on average – until now. Immunotherapy has shown to be incredibly effective at treating this disease, and it's something that is changing patients' lives for the better.

Still, immunotherapy has shown to work only about 20 per cent of the time. There’s still a long way for us to get where we need to be. A new study aims to build on our knowledge base and increase the efficacy of immunotherapy-based treatment using personalized medicine, an area of research that BC Cancer is internationally regarded in.

In this study, we look at the genetic makeup of a person's specific cancer and try and uncover which genes are driving the disease. We've discovered that around 20 per cent of those who develop bladder cancers have a specific gene mutation known as FRGR, and we now have a drug that can essentially stop these genes from continuing to mutate, thereby stopping the production of cancer in the body.

It's incredible work that is truly changing the game of cancer treatment for patients in BC. Next week, you'll hear from a patient of mine who took part in this study. He came to us with Stage 4 bladder cancer and has shown a complete response. His account is a testament to the power of research to save lives.

BC Cancer Foundation donors are at the heart of this progress. Because of donor support, we’re conducting trials and making breakthroughs discoveries that very few other research centres are capable of. This will only grow with time, as we build upon our knowledge base in our quest to improve treatment and outcomes for British Columbians.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Eigl