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B.C.’s cancer survival rates stand out

I’m pleased to be today’s special guest blogger and to share with you our excitement about a study that highlights the quality of cancer care in British Columbia and the role that research plays in it. The study, published today in the prestigious international journal The Lancet , compares outcomes for breast, ovarian, lung, and colorectal cancer among Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom over the period from 1995–2007. These six nations were chosen because of their similar wealth and systems of universal health care. Here is a summary of some of the results: -...

About Clinical Trials

I wanted to start by speaking a bit about the Clinical Trials Unit at the Abbotsford Centre. “Clinical trials” is a term that encompasses a lot of different research questions and goals. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has a definition ( here it is), but for ease, I think of clinical trials as being any research experiment being conducted on human patients. In our context, these include specific questions such as, “Is chemotherapy X better than chemotherapy Y ?” and peripheral questions such as, “Does herb X reduce nausea better than drug Y ?” or, “Is a PET/CT scan helpful prior to...

Meet Dr. Devin Schellenberg

As Doug explained, I am a radiation oncologist at the BC Cancer Agency’s Fraser Valley and Abbotsford Centres. A radiation oncologist treats cancer mostly by using high energy, extremely focused X-ray beams, though internal radiation (in the form of prostate brachytherapy seeds or gynecologic implants) may also be used. Physicians choose to use radiation, chemotherapy or surgery (or a combination) depending on the type of cancer, its stage (that is, how far the disease has spread) and the wellness of the patient. Radiation is used as treatment for almost all types of cancer though not every...

Introducing December's guest blogger

December always seems to be such a busy month. Shopping, parties and other festive activities can make for a hectic season. I pause when I remember that thousands of British Columbians and their loved ones will spend this season in the middle of a cancer journey. So, while I know that some of you might not be checking in as often over the next few weeks, we’re still going to continue blogging and informing you of the amazing work taking place throughout the province every day at the BC Cancer Agency. With that, it gives me great pleasure to turn the blog over this month to Dr. Devin...

How projects like ANGELYC make a difference

As you know from my previous post, our research team at the BC Cancer Agency’s Centre for Lymphoid Cancer has undertaken the ANGELYC project (Analysis of Genomes to Eliminate Lymphoid Cancer). I thought you might be interested in an example of why this is important. It involves an odd coincidence in my practice. A few years ago, I saw both a husband and wife as patients within about six months of each other. What was odd was that both of them had developed the same type of follicular lymphoma. Even more odd, in each case the lymphoma first showed up as a lump under their arm. We know that...

ANGELYC Project

I’d like to tell you a bit about an exciting research project being undertaken right now at the Centre for Lymphoid Cancer . It’s called the ANGELYC Project, which stands for Analysis of Genomes to Eliminate Lymphoid Cancers. This is a comprehensive research study my Co-Director Dr. Randy Gascoyne and I are launching. The goal of the ANGELYC Project is to sequence and analyze the genomes of all lymphoid cancers. We hope to uncover new treatment targets and develop more effective treatments that will ultimately give lymphoid cancer patients a better chance at long-term survival. This project...

Introduction to Lymphoid cancers

Hello readers! My name is Dr. Joseph Connors, and I’m the clinical director at the BC Cancer Agency’s Centre for Lymphoid Cancer. I’ve worked at the BC Cancer Agency for nearly 30 years as a medical oncologist. I’d like to start by explaining a bit about lymphoid cancers and why I’ve chosen to dedicate my work to this area. Lymphoid cancers are cancers that start in the lymphocytes — a type of white blood cell. Lymphoid cancers can affect anyone, and incidence of these cancers is growing faster than any other kind in North America. Lymphoid cancers are now the fourth most common cancer in...

Breast cancer and other women’s cancers

For my last post, I want to talk about some of the work we’re doing in collaboration with the BC Cancer Agency’s ovarian cancer research program, OvCaRe . Back in 1896, a Scotsman named George Beatson became the first doctor to treat breast cancer patients by removing their ovaries. This was a very crude treatment, especially considering the state of surgical techniques at the time, but it actually worked for some patients. We now know that this is because some breast tumours are fueled by female hormones — like estrogen — that are made in the ovaries. Of course, we’ve come a long way since...

My lab’s research focus

I promised to tell you about some of the projects we’re working on at the moment and how they fit into our overall goal of getting the best possible breast cancer treatments to the right patients at the right time. We have so many different projects on the go. It’s impossible to cover everything, but I hope I can explain the big picture of how all the different components connect to each other and to our overarching goal. There are many steps involved in developing a new drug and deciding which patients will benefit the most from it. The very first is to identify what we call “druggable...

What is Life?

In memory of Anita Cochrane. What is life? Almost 70 years ago, Nobel prize-winning physicist Erwin Schrodinger asked that question in an essay. His short book provoked a large number of physicists and chemists to move into the field of biology, thus sparking the revolution in science that came from the discovery of the genetic code. In 1953, a profound moment of discovery in human history occurred when we learned how the information for life is encoded — in the sequence of DNA chains inside the cells that make up all living organisms. We know that cancer starts at the cellular level —...

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