There have been many advances in the last few years in the detection and treatment of childhood cancers. Among the breakthroughs — genomics.
“It’s the idea of characterizing the genetic profile of a cancer to better understand what is wrong,” explains Dr. Jacques Michaud, head of research at Sainte-Justine Hospital.
There’s also immunotherapy. That’s when the body’s own immune system is used to fight the disease.
But scientists are still frustrated. They say about 300 children will be diagnosed with cancer in Canada this year, and 20 per cent of them won’t survive.
There’s been some kind of a plateau,” Dr. Michaud tells Global News. “We’re still being confronted to this failure in a small proportion, but still significant proportion of children.”
There are risks for survivors too because of possible side effects from treatments like chemotherapy.
Some in the medical community say there’s also a lack of collaboration among the city’s many institutions for cancer research.
“There are a lot of strengths in Montreal in this area of research,” says Dr. Michaud, “but scientists tend to work with close collaborators in each of the institutions.”
That’s why the Canadian Cancer Society is partnering with the Montreal-based Cole Foundation to bring researchers together. The Cole Foundation supports research into pediatric oncology and hematology. Together, they are giving a total of almost $4 million to fund research into leukemia and lymphoma. The idea is to get scientists from different universities and hospitals to collaborate more.
According to Barry Cole, CEO and board chairman of the Cole Foundation, “by having more silos broken down, more interaction between the different institutions, you then get the benefit of new ideas, new equipment, new research issues and new discoveries.”
There are 25 researchers and clinicians in all, including 21 from Montreal, one each from Quebec City and Toronto, and two from Vancouver.
Organizers hope that this project will help make the city the country’s main hub of pediatric cancer research.
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