VANCOUVER — The BC Cancer Foundation and BC Cancer Agency announce new BC Cancer Foundation Clinical Investigator Awards with $1.5 million. The funding provides two BC Cancer Agency clinician-researchers the opportunity to dramatically alter cancer care for patients in B.C.
The five-year funding has been awarded to Dr. Jessica McAlpine to pursue critical work in endometrial cancer and to Dr. Aly Karsan to develop life-saving tests for patients with cancers of the blood cells. The BC Cancer Foundation Clinical Investigator awards play a significant role in advancing lab-based discoveries into solutions for cancer patients.
“The research being coordinated by Dr. McAlpine and Dr. Karsan has great potential to impact the case of patients with endometrial and blood cancers not just in B.C. but throughout the world,” says Dr. Malcolm Moore, President, BC Cancer Agency. “We are very grateful to the BC Cancer Foundation and its donors for enabling these awards to be made.”
Dr. Jessica McAlpine is a surgeon specializing in gynecological cancers and a researcher with the world-renowned OVCARE team at the BC Cancer Agency. Her work will focus on endometrial cancers, which currently have the fastest growing mortality rate of all cancers and are the most common gynecological cancer. There is currently no reliable way to identify if a woman’s endometrial cancer is low-risk and relatively curable or high-risk and life-threatening.
Dr. McAlpine is developing molecular tools that can discern the risk the cancer has spread or the likelihood of recurrence in that individual, informing management. This type of diagnostic tool would be a world-first, helping to spare patient with low-risk cancer from unnecessary treatments in turn ensuring women with high-risk cancer are treated aggressively from the start and receive appropriate surveillance and monitoring.
“This research has the potential to completely change the way we manage patients from the time of their first diagnosis through to their final visit, improving outcomes for women with endometrial cancer,” says Dr. McAlpine.
Dr. Aly Karsan is awarded the John Auston BC Cancer Foundation Clinical Investigator Award, named in honour of past BC Cancer Foundation board director John Auston who lost his life to cancer. Auston was an avid supporter of cancer research in B.C.
Dr. Karsan, medical director for the Cancer Genetics Laboratory, BC Cancer Agency and head of the Centre for Clinical Genomics, will gain an in-depth understanding of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), which are cancers of the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. Patients with MDS have a very poor chance of survival as the cancer often progresses to an aggressive leukemia, specifically Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
Current treatment is unable to destroy the life-threatening MDS stem cells and Dr. Karsan says, “By studying the changes at the DNA and RNA level of these deadly MDS stem cells, we hope to develop clinical tests that will identify which patients should receive specific drug treatments or stem cell transplant.”
The BC Cancer Foundation launched its Clinical Investigator Awards program in 2013 with two awards that are still under way supporting the work of Dr. Kim Chi in metastatic prostate cancer and Dr. David Scott in lymphoma. Both projects have leveraged significant grants and have uncovered critical knowledge in the management and treatment of these common cancers.
“With donor support, we are proud to advance the work of Drs. McAlpine and Karsan and have full confidence that they will unequivocally change the treatment and survival rates for British Columbians facing the most aggressive forms of endometrial and blood cell cancers,” says Lou Del Gobbo, Interim President & CEO, BC Cancer Foundation.
For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:
BC Cancer Foundation
t. 604.707.5934 c. 604.802.6984
The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. For more information, visit www.bccancer.ca. The BC Cancer Foundation
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