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World-first lymphoma research discovery!

Before we get into next month’s blogger, I’m pleased to inform you of an exciting discovery that was announced today at the BC Cancer Agency. A study published in the prestigious international journal Nature outlines the discovery of a gene, CIITA, by researchers at the Agency’s Centre for Lymphoid Cancer (CLC). This discovery is a world-first because Agency researchers have found that this single gene is responsible for 40 per cent of patients with primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma (a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma) and 15 per cent of all Hodgkin lymphoma patients. This is also the first...

Explaining cancer immunology

So, I hope that I’ve built some anticipation for my explanation of cancer immunology. I’m really proud of my team at the Deeley Research Centre (DRC) in Victoria and that we’re one of only two dedicated sites in Canada that explore the link between your immune system and cancer. When I speak about your immune system, I mean the white blood cells in your body. White blood cells (especially the type called T cells) circulate throughout your body looking for signs of infection from viruses or bacteria. When they see trouble, they destroy the foreign invaders. Although cancer cells can often look...

Why the Deeley Research Centre is a great place to work

As I mentioned, coming back to B.C. to work at the Deeley Research Centre (DRC) in the Vancouver Island Centre was an exciting moment in my career. Coming to the DRC in Victoria was a unique opportunity, and I’m so happy that I made the move. I’m also deeply grateful to all the donors who created the DRC by supporting the BC Cancer Foundation. The BC Cancer Agency is an amazing organization and the Vancouver Island Centre is a perfect example of what it represents. Everyone that I work alongside with at the Centre is first class – this includes my fellow researchers, the clinicians, research...

How I got interested in cancer research

Although I’m now the Director of the Deeley Research Centre (DRC) at the BC Cancer Agency’s Vancouver Island Centre , I actually came to cancer research quite late in my academic career. I was completing my Ph.D. in embryology (the study of how animal and human eggs develop) at the University of California at Berkeley when I started to think about what my next challenge would be. It was at this time when my wife and I learned about her mother’s ovarian cancer diagnosis. I was in shock. Never before had I been so close to cancer. As I learned more about cancer during her journey, I was...

Introducing February's Guest Blogger: Dr. Brad Nelson

Through the reading of our blog and the exploration of our website, I hope you’ve come to appreciate how the BC Cancer Agency is a truly provincial organization that delivers quality care and conducts breakthrough research across B.C. Some of the most unique and interesting cancer research is happening in Victoria at the Vancouver Island Centre’s Deeley Research Centre (DRC) — cancer immunology. Follow along with us this month as Dr. Brad Nelson, Director of the DRC, tells us about his research in this exciting area and how it has put Victoria on the world map for groundbreaking cancer...

A message on World Cancer Day

World Cancer Day gives me the opportunity to step back and look at where we are and how far we’ve come in our knowledge and control of this disease. It also brings to mind the dedication and skill of those who are responsible for cancer research and care in B.C. Despite our growing, aging population and the increasing numbers of us experiencing cancer, we’ve seen many life-saving discoveries and advances in recent years. Many of them are home-grown. The BC Cancer Agency, Canada’s largest, fully integrated cancer care and research organization, is right in our own backyard. Breast and ovarian...

The Future of Genomics: Personalized medicine

It really is a very exciting time to work at the BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre (GSC). We are working with many other research teams, both at the Agency and around the world, to help better understand cancer and to use this advanced knowledge to succeed in treating cancer cells. In the last 18 months, there have been a number of world-class genome science breakthroughs at the BC Cancer Agency in breast, ovarian and lymphoid cancers — and the GSC has been involved in all of them. In these studies, many new genes with “spelling mistakes” (mutations) in them have been identified. We...

How technology is helping genomics

As I mentioned in my last post, the amount of DNA in your body is astounding, as is the number of cells, which has been estimated at 100 trillion When I started in genomics, searching for cancer-causing mutations was a huge and expensive endeavor, and simply could not be done comprehensively. The tools to understand the structure and function of cancer cell genomes simply did not exist. All of that has drastically changed thanks to advances in technology. So called “next-generation” DNA sequencing has dramatically changed the rate and cost of doing DNA sequencing for cancer mutation detection...

What is genomics?

Since genomics can seem complicated, let’s start with the basics so that you understand a bit better what my team does. Many people are aware that the cells of living organisms contain DNA that encodes the information that their cells need to grow and divide normally. The term genome refers to the DNA within the cells. Although most of the genome is similar between individuals, there are also a lot of differences. For instance, the copy of the genome that we inherited from Mom is different than the copy of the genome that we inherited from Dad. Genomics refers to a collection of special tools...

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