By Вen Li
Researchers, doctors, patients and students will benefit from a new $3 million Brain Tumor Research Chair. Dr. Gregory Cairncross, Department Head of Clinical Neurosciences and a professor at the University of Calgary, was announced as the first recipient on Tue., Nov. 5.
“We’re going to build a brain tumor research centre for the twenty-first century,” said Cairncross. “To some degree, we’re still working with twentieth century treatments. The clues to how we move forward are becoming clear.”
The Alberta Cancer Foundation Chair in Brain Tumor Research is funded by the ACF’s Conquering Cancer Research endowment fund.
“We’re excited about moving brain tumor research to a new and exceptional level,” said Alberta Cancer Foundation CEO Linda Mickelson. “Dr. Cairncross is an international leader in neuro-oncology who will help to recruit and mentor other young scientists.”
Cairncross–who was formerly the Head of Oncology at the University of Western Ontario and CEO of the London Regional Cancer Centre–hopes the establishment of the chair will help attract and retain researchers. He said the U of C’s current cancer-related research into reovirus and stem cells attracted him to Calgary.
Dr. Peter Forsyth, a neurological oncologist from the U of C’s Cancer Biology Research Group agrees that coordination among researchers and practitioners would benefit research.
“There’s a lack of understanding and coordinated approach to research,” said Forsyth. “The future we see is an integration of cancer treatment, patient care and cancer research.”
Dean of Faculty of Medicine Dr. Grant Gall also sees benefits from close integration.
“This chair gives us the opportunity to pull together the many exciting brain research activities happening here,” said Gall. “We are now poised to establish our Faculty of Medicine and the Tom Baker Cancer Centre as world leaders in brain tumor research.”
Cairncross hopes to build on his research into morphologically similar but genetically different types of brain tumors. Using microarray facilities which compare the genetic composition of tumor cells, he has discovered that different mutations can make cells susceptible to different cancer treatments including chemotherapy and radiation.
“Through molecular analysis, our ability to diagnose brain tumors and cancer in general will be enhanced enormously,” said Cairncross. “We will create new treatments and learn to use current treatments in wiser ways.”
Over 20,000 North Americans, including about 250 Albertans, are diagnosed with brain tumours each year.