ARCHIVED - Cancer - Your Health Research Dollars at Work 2006-2007This page has been archived.
Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats by contacting us.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's agency for health research. Through CIHR, the Government of Canada invested approximately $124.8 million in 2006-07 across Canada in cancer research.
Canada is facing a cancer epidemic over the next 20 years, due to our aging population. If current trends continue, 5.7 million Canadians will develop cancer and 2.7 million will die of the disease over the next 30 years.
An estimated 159,900 new cases of cancer and 72,700 deaths from cancer will occur in Canada in 2007.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. Overall, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer.
Canadians aged 70 and over represent 43% of new cancer cases and 60% of deaths due to cancer.
Thirty-eight per cent of Canadian women and 44% of men will develop cancer during their lifetimes based on current incidence rates.
Twenty-four per cent of women and 29% of men, or about a quarter of all Canadians, will die from cancer, based on current mortality rates.
Smoking is responsible for 27% of potential years of life lost due to cancer.
Cancer costs Canadians more than $14 billion every year. Of that total, $2.5 billion is for direct costs such as hospitalization and medication, while $11.8 billion is for indirect costs such as early death or disability.
New drug in breast cancer fight
McGill University researchers may have found a new way to fight a form of breast cancer that affects up to 25% of all breast cancer sufferers. And, the really good news is that it uses an already-existing drug. In experiments with mice, CIHR-supported researcher Dr. Michel L. Tremblay showed that by suppressing an enzyme known as PTP1B, it was possible to delay or even completely suppress the onset of a strain of breast cancer associated with the HER-2 gene. In 1999, Dr. Tremblay's team demonstrated the role of PTP1B in metabolism regulation and several companies went on to develop drugs that could now be used as potential breast cancer therapies.
Watching cancer grow from scratch
Doctors have to deal with the effects of cancer after it is diagnosed, but new research by Dr. John Dick of the Princess Margaret Hospital, University of Toronto, will help cancer specialists understand how this disease unfolds from start to finish. There has been growing evidence that a small number of cancer cells, so-called cancer stem cells, help the cancer grow and renew even in the face of radiation and other therapies. With the help of CIHR funding, Dr. Dick and his team successfully implanted these types of cells into mice, which then developed cancer. This result supports the theory that cancer stem cells drive the development of tumours, and also provides a powerful new tool to better understand cancer and find ways of defeating it.
Safe, inexpensive drug a cancer killer
A drug used for decades to treat metabolic disorders has now been found to kill lung, breast and brain cancer cells - but not healthy cells. CIHR-supported researcher Dr. Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta showed that dichloroacetate (DCA) shrinks tumours in both animal and human tissue experiments. DCA has numerous advantages: it can reach areas in the body that other drugs cannot and, since it is not patented, it would likely be an inexpensive drug to administer. The drug could move into human clinical trials quickly because the molecule has already been successfully tested on humans for metabolic disorders.
Dr. Peter Dirks - Not all cancer cells are created equal
Dr. Peter Dirks is changing our understanding of how some cancers grow, spread - and can be treated.
"Within a single cancer tumour, not all the cells are the same," says Dr. Dirks, a CIHR-supported cancer researcher and pediatric neurosurgeon at the University of Toronto-affiliated Hospital for Sick Children. "And it's understanding these differences that's going to be key to finding more effective treatments for many forms of the disease."
In 2003, he turned medicine's perspective of brain cancer on its head with the discovery of brain cancer stem cells. Like stem cells in other tissues, brain cancer stem cells are immature forms of cells capable to developing into a variety of mature forms. Most importantly, Dr. Dirks showed that, in brain cancers, these stem cells act as cancer ringleaders.
In experiments, he found that 100,000 ordinary cancer cells couldn't kick-start a tumour in a mouse, but as few as 100 of the cancer stem cells were able to give rise to the disease.
The discovery of such cells was pivotal to explaining why radiation therapy is often unsuccessful in treating human glioblastoma, "a particularly nasty type of brain cancer," says Dr. Dirks. Brain cancer stem cells can survive the ionizing radiation that kills the other cancer cells and are thus able to re-start a tumour.
Dr. Dirks' research group is now trying to understand cancer stem cells in more detail. "The true cancer ringleaders are probably a sub-population of the stem cells we've found so far."
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's agency for health research. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to catalyze its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health-care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 11,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
160 Elgin St., 9th Floor, Ottawa ON K1A 0W9