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Recent breakthroughs in prostate and ovarian cancer research help to change lives

September is ovarian cancer awareness month and prostate cancer awareness month. Ongoing research into these cancer types are helping to improve patient outcomes every day.
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Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the 5th most common cancer for women in Canada. Thousands of women are living with ovarian cancer across Canada. In B.C., one in 72 women is expected to develop ovarian cancer during her lifetime and one in 85 is expected to die of ovarian cancer. In 2021, approximately 315 women in B.C. will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. 

Researchers with BC Cancer continue to investigate this devastating disease. In January this year, BC Cancer researcher Dr. Julian J. Lum used a newly developed metabolomics technology to discover a key finding that could lead to harnessing the body’s own immune system to fight ovarian cancer. Dr. Lum and researchers at BC Cancer’s Deeley Lab in Victoria were able to identify cancer cell by-products, known as metabolites, which effectively disable the body’s T cells, the type of immune cells that can recognize and fight cancerous tumour cells. 

“This could be a game-changer in how we can help our immune system to fight the disease” says Marisa Kilgour, lead author and PhD student supervised by Dr. Julian J. Lum, a senior scientist at BC Cancer and associate professor at the University of Victoria. 

This discovery has since enabled Dr. Lum’s lab to secure additional funding to develop gene-engineering T cells to overcome these disabling metabolites. More information about Dr. Lum’s research

Last year another important discovery offered a new treatment possibility for a rare and aggressive form of ovarian cancer, commonly diagnosed in women who are in their 20s. The study, led by a MD/PhD candidate and trainee at the BC Cancer Research Institute, described a weakness within the cancer cells that could present a therapeutic target if proven in clinical trials. 

“This research is another step to better understanding a very aggressive form of ovarian cancer and providing better treatment outcomes for women diagnosed with this disease,” said research team lead Dr. David Huntsman, pathologist and ovarian cancer researcher at BC Cancer. 

Read more about recent advancements in ovarian cancer research: 

For information about ovarian cancer including causes, prevention and early signs and symptoms, please visit: 

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer to affect Canadian men and accounts for 12% of all cancer diagnoses in men in B.C. This year it is expected that 3,630 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, a number that is expected to rise in the next 10 years. In B.C., one in 9 men is expected to develop prostate cancer during their lifetime and one in 29 men is expected to die from the disease. 

Researchers at BC Cancer continue to investigate this deadly disease leading to new treatment options and improved outcomes. In July of this year, a phase III clinical trial showed a new way of treating prostate cancer, successfully improving the overall survival rate in men with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC). The results showed a 38 per cent increase in overall survival rates in patients who received the new form of treatment.

“I would not have expected this outcome had they not participated in this trial. Follow up scans showed that their cancers had regressed and had remained so over time even at their advanced stage,” said Dr. Kim Nguyen Chi, medical oncologist at BC Cancer and co-author of the study. 

In January 2020, BC Cancer researchers also worked on the development of a blood test to reveal whether select prostate cancer patients would respond well to treatment. The test examines the circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) within the blood to identify detailed information about the tumour including whether the cancer was originally caused by inherited genetic alterations, or if the mutations are only present in the cancer itself. The results of the test will help inform the best treatment program for the patient and could have implications on future cancer risk for their children.

“We have developed new technology that can analyze tumour DNA present in a patient’s bloodstream, essentially giving us the same information we would collect from a biopsy but in a more efficient way that is easier on both the patient and the health care system,” says Dr. Wyatt, scientist with the Genome Sciences Centre at BC Cancer and Vancouver Prostate Centre. 

More information about Dr. Wyatt’s research

Read more about recent advancements in prostate cancer research: 

For information about prostate cancer including causes, prevention and early signs and symptoms, please visit: 

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