One of the most exciting areas of breast cancer research is the study of genomics. Genomics is about understanding the genetic makeup of different cancers, in turn enabling us to develop targeted treatments for them. Through this kind of research, we can dive deep in terms of what is driving a patient’s cancer, how it will behave and how it might respond to certain treatments. 

Genomic research shown us how vastly different breast cancers are from one another and how patient-specific treatment options need to be. Our hope is that now, with the ability to sequence off of bioposies, we can profile an individual's cancer with very minimal risk to them. This is work, led Dr. Sam Aparicio, who I collaborate closely with, is generating much excitement in the international research community. It is really changing the way we view and treat this disease.

The funds that donors contribute to the BC Cancer Foundation help spur these ground-breaking research discoveries. Genomic research is but one example of the very tangible effect philanthropy has on improving cancer care.

Another example is a new class of drugs that we have been able to study through a clinical trial here at BC Cancer. These drugs, called CBK46 inhibitors, have demonstrated consistently that they double the benefit of standard hormonal therapy.

I have a number of patients who have participated in studies that have benefited from this drug. I have one patient in particular who is now two and a half years in remission. She’s running 10-kilometres and working full time and travelling. 

Her story exemplifies the power of research. Having the capacity to spearhead these trials allows us to develop new treatment options that are improving the quality of life for patients facing this disease today. 

Having the capacity to conduct research is much like the film Field of Dreams. If you build a research project, the grants to support it often will come. But you need the seed-funding to initiate it in the first place. Donor dollars provides us a foundation through which we can leverage additional dollars through grant funding. Through this process, we’re able to exploit the research potential here at BC Cancer to the fullest.

Next week, I’ll discuss the future of breast cancer research and care here in B.C. 

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Chia

Medical Oncologist and Chair - Provincial Breast Tumour Group, BC Cancer Agency