A drop of blood could fuel a revolution in personalizing cancer treatment
March 14, 2019
There’s a growing belief that a blood test could act as a crystal ball in predicting a person’s necessity, response, and ultimate outcome to cancer treatment.
According to BC Cancer researchers, blood can contain tiny fragments of DNA from an individual’s cancer and those fragments provide incredible insight into the patient’s journey. Imagine a simple blood test guiding your treatment: pointing to the right drugs, staying one step ahead of the cancer, and effectively breaking it down.
These miniscule fragments are called circulating tumour DNA, or ctDNA for short. And, BC Cancer’s world-leading breast cancer team is embarking on a two year study looking at the benefits of introducing ctDNA testing in the clinic thanks to a critical $1.2 million donation from the Conconi Family Foundation.
Dr. Stephen Chia, medical oncologist and chair of BC Cancer’s breast cancer tumour group, is leading the study with a firm belief that: “ctDNA represents the next frontier in understanding who and how to treat breast cancers, and we believe this will have critical implications for other cancers, such as lung, colon, ovary, pancreatic and bladder.”
Technology is giving way to a whole new understanding and approach to cancer care and we are proud to be at the forefront of this, knowing it will benefit thousands of people in our province as they face cancer in the years ahead,” Dr. Chia says.
Speaking on behalf of the Conconi Family Foundation, Alex Conconi says, “Our blood is telling us things about our cancer that can help us get healthy, and right now we’re not listening because listening is expensive and we don’t know how to make sense of the message — but we’re not far from a future where listening to the cancer cells in our blood is easier and cheaper. Our hope is that this gift will help get us to that future faster."
The BC Cancer team will commence collection, storage and analysis of ctDNA from all consenting breast cancer patients in the province.
For Sanja Simic, executive director of the Conconi Family Foundation, a recent run-in with breast cancer has inspired the Conconi family’s interest in helping advance care for other patients facing breast cancer.
"It is true that cancer is personal to us at the Conconi Family Foundation but it is not the key reason for this gift. We saw an opportunity to invest in the world-class talent here at BC Cancer in hopes of staying ahead of cancer,” Sanja says.
The Conconi Family Foundation is a long-time, generous supporter of the BC Cancer Foundation. Inspired by the family patriarch, Robert Conconi’s personal cancer experience, they have given nearly $5 million since 2011 to the BC Cancer Foundation. Their philanthropy has established the Conconi Family Immunotherapy Lab at BC Cancer – Victoria where immune based cancer treatments are in development.
“There is still so much we don't know about cancer. This is a unique and "of the moment" opportunity to leverage technology for deeper learnings which can then be translated to the clinic," says Robert Conconi.
The BC Cancer Foundation is the fundraising partner of BC Cancer and thanks to the generosity of the Conconi Family Foundation along with 90,000 donors, this year is shaping up to bring in record philanthropic support.
“Cancer is the number one health issue facing our generation. Its grasp on families across our province is undeniable and we are so incredibly proud to work with families like the Conconis to fund progressive research projects that will make a dramatic impact on thousands of patients’ lives in the years to come,” says Sarah Roth, president & CEO, BC Cancer Foundation.