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Reflecting on the Pace of Cancer Discovery

January 27, 2017

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of cancer, “The Emperor of All Maladies,” Siddhartha Mukherjee quotes the Red Queen from Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass” to describe perfectly how clinical cancer research must move: “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

I find myself reflecting on this quote very often. Cancer cells arise from us – they evolve and become resistant in response to every treatment that we have devised so far. So we keep working fastidiously to either overcome this resistance or to find a new approach that might eliminate the cancer before it can evolve again.

Those of us who treat this disease, who carry out the research that identifies new potential treatments, and those who design and conduct the clinical trials that lead to proven new therapies, are locked in a constant race. We have chosen to be there because we know that progress does happen and must keep happening! It can’t happen without the participation of patients like Chris, their families and the donors like you who help the BC Cancer Foundation support us all.

One of the amazing areas of progress that I am working on now involves taking a sample of blood from a patient and isolating cancer DNA from it, in order to identify changes specific to their cancer. This kind of work would have been in the realm of science fiction only a few years ago and we are doing it now, and starting to offer it to more and more patients throughout B.C. We have world class teams in this province who are leading this and other genomic research, and I am incredibly fortunate to be a small part of that team.

This is my last entry as the “January Blogger”. I thank you for reading my blog posts, and hope you have enjoyed hearing about the work I do. Please send me a comment, come and say “hi” if you see me in the halls…or better yet, join me for an epic event at the Ride to Conquer Cancer in August!