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Finding Solutions for Gynecologic and Rare Cancers

December 11, 2013

For my second blog entry I wanted to tell you a bit more about my work at the BC Cancer Agency.

I joined the BC Cancer Agency in 2006 and, over time, honed my clinical focus solely on gynecologic cancers. Gynecologic cancers are not as well publicized as some more common cancers, but they are a very complex and challenging group of diseases.

In order to find new treatments, a deep understanding of cancer is needed. I am very fortunate to collaborate closely with a dynamic group of researchers in the OvCaRe group and at the Deeley Research Centre in Victoria. Together, we are working to understand the differences in cancers based on changes in the tumour genetic code (DNA). We also wish to understand the heterogeneity (variability) of cancers: between patients and also within individuals.

Of major interest to me is how the immune system and tumours interact. My colleagues and I are also very interested in advancing the study of rare tumours. Many women with gynecologic cancers have rare tumours and these are typically not well studied. This is a challenging situation, both for the team delivering the treatment, and for the patient and family.

The SMART project was born from our desire to work in collaboration with international colleagues to change this situation. This project encourages doctors and patients around the world to adopt similar treatment approaches to rare cancers, and to record the outcomes of these treatments. By grouping outcomes from across the world, we may be able to glean important information on the effects of specific treatments on these rare tumours.

This is something we had not been able to achieve in the past, as the rarity of some diseases prevented us from being able to conduct conventional clinical trials. Now, we are working with colleagues across North America and Europe to make this project successful. While the project was conceived within the gynecologic cancer group, it is intended to be shared amongst all rare tumours, irrespective of origin.

As with all successes in life, it is the team that makes a difference. I am very lucky to be part of a great team. Return to this blog next week and I'll share some details of the team I work with.