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Why we need to expand personalized cancer treatment in British Columbia

Personalized Onco-Genomics needs to grow if we’re to fully address the cancer problem here in British Columbia. Right now we have around 26,000 new cancer diagnoses in the province, and that figure is expected to increase as our populations continue to grow and age. Approximately 10,000 of those new cases will present themselves as metastatic disease, and that is a very big clinical problem. It’s also one that we don’t know a great deal about. There is much to learn. Most of the information we’ve been able to generate about metastatic disease comes from primary tumours, restricted to a single...

Experimental study revolutionizes cancer care across globe

The origins of POG We chart the origins of the Personalized Onco-Genomics (POG) platform to an experience that occurred around 9 years ago. We had been building the capacity to sequence all 3+ billion letters of human cancer genomes. At the time there was a patient with a rare form of cancer that had been treated with surgery and radiation, but the cancer had come back. We were challenged to find all the mutations (or genetic “spelling mistakes”) and gene activity changes in the patient’s cancer genome to identify those that might have caused the patient’s cancer. By searching through the...

Dr. Marra on cancer: "We've really got to get a handle on this"

Hello, my name is Dr. Marco Marra. I’m a distinguished scientist at BC Cancer, a professor of medical genetics at the University of British Columbia and the director of the BC Cancer Genome Sciences Centre. This is my first time blogging for the BC Cancer Foundation, and I look forward to updating our donor community on the progress we have been making with genome sciences generally, and specifically our Personalized Onco-Genomics program. But, before we get to the science, I’ll introduce myself and tell you a little about how I came into this line of work. Interest in science sparked Dr...

Introducing February guest blogger Dr. Marco Marra

Thank you to Dr. Connors for his insightful and informative posts this past month. It is pleasing to know that lymphoid cancer patients have some of the best outcomes in British Columbia thanks to the work taking place at BC Cancer. I am delighted to introduce Dr. Marco Marra, distinguished scientist and director of the BC Cancer Genome Sciences Centre, to our blog for February. Dr. Marra oversees the world-renowned Personalized Onco-Genomics program , BC Cancer’s flagship program in precision medicine. The life-saving program was the focus of a CBC Nature of Things documentary last year. Dr...

'Exciting days lie ahead in lymphoid cancer research and treatment'

This week I will talk about where lymphoid cancer research is going in the future. I think the greatest promise lies in two areas. But first I need to provide some context. The treatment of lymphoid cancers has become steadily more successful over the past 30 years. Considering all of the lymphoid cancers, today it is reasonable to expect that more than 50 per cent of patients can be cured, even when their lymphoid cancer is widely metastatic (has spread widely throughout the body). That level of success against metastatic cancer is almost unique across the entire cancer field. It means that...

Game-changing discoveries made for lymphoid cancers

This week I can describe our current research focused on lymphoid cancer in British Columbia. Building on the insight we had gained in the 1980s and 1990s into why lymphoid cancers develop and how they respond to treatment, we turned our attention to the basic molecular biology of these diseases. Lymphoid cancers are unique among human cancers in several aspects. In lymphoid cancer the cells which turn malignant are lymphocytes, the white blood cells of which our immune system is composed. Our immune system lymphocytes face a unique challenge compared to most cells in our body. They must...

BC Cancer: a world-leading centre for lymphoid cancer research

With this blog I would like to describe my early years at BC Cancer. This was a time of rapid evolution for BC Cancer and one during which my career as a lymphoid cancer researcher blossomed. I arrived in Vancouver in 1981, straight out of my medical oncology fellowship at Stanford University, eager to apply the skills and knowledge I had gained there. Stanford was already known internationally for the progress it had brought to lymphoma treatment, especially Hodgkin lymphoma. That skillset equipped me to work with Dr Paul Klimo to begin a career focused on lymphoma, lymphocytic leukemia and...

Emerging knowledge transforming cancer treatment in BC

Thanks to the BC Cancer Foundation for inviting me to be their guest blogger this month. As I near retirement this is a good time for me to reflect on the 37 years I have spent at BC Cancer and all the progress we have made in understanding and managing lymphoid cancers in that time. I grew up on Cape Cod in Massachusetts and received all of my education in the United States, including medical school at Yale University. After that I did my house-staff training in Chapel Hill at the University of North Carolina, and then spent two years as a general internist in Anchorage, Alaska, where I...

Introducing January guest blogger Dr. Joseph Connors

Thank you to Dr. Benard for his inspiring blog posts over the holiday season. We are fortunate to have such strong leadership here at BC Cancer, committed to elevating cancer research to new heights. I am pleased to welcome to our blog Dr. Joseph Connors, medical oncologist and chair of the BC Cancer provincial lymphoma tumour group for January. Dr. Connors recently spearheaded an international clinical trial which has pointed to a promising new treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He will share the results of the trial and describe the ways in which lymphoma research and care has transformed...

The future of cancer research in British Columbia

There is much to look forward to with regard to cancer research and care here in British Columbia. My primary hope would be to improve our ability to provide the right treatments to patients much earlier than we are able to now. For the most part, we still give a one-size-fits-all approach to large cohorts of patients, depending on the type of tumour they have. There is a need to improve our ability to determine who will respond to these types of treatment and who won’t, before we deliver it. That way, we can choose a better course of treatment for that individual’s specific cancer type. This...

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