Thanks to our donors, “Ottawa scientists hail ‘viral strategy’ to fight pancreatic cancer”

By Paula Muldoon on April 20 / 2015

[Cancer, News, Research]Comments

You may be aware that Pancreatic Cancer is one of the most devastating cancers. It is often diagnosed very late-stage and is considered a “treatment refractory disease”. For the 85% who don’t get surgery, most die within 6 months. With your help, we are trying to change that.

At the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, cancer IS our focus each and every day. Cancer Foundation donors believe in the power of research and the future of personalized care for the patient. With donor support, the Cancer Foundation dedicates millions of dollars each year towards innovative projects that show incredible promise and may one day be the future of cancer treatment, including the pioneering work of Dr. John Bell, Senior Scientist, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the University of Ottawa. We are very proud to be one of the funders of this recent study that is being published in Nature Medicine journal, and summarized in the Ottawa Citizen:

Ottawa scientists hail ‘ viral strategy’ to fight pancreatic cancer

Andrew Duffy, Ottawa Citizen
Published on: April 20, 2015

One of Ottawa’s premier research scientists has published a study that points to viruses as an important ally in the fight against pancreatic cancer, a disease known as a “silent killer” because its early symptoms often go unnoticed.

People diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have a five-year survival rate of just six per cent. That survival rate — the lowest among all common cancer types — has not improved in the past four decades.

Major surgery remains the only way of curing pancreatic cancer, but it’s usually performed only if the tumour has not spread beyond the organ. In most cases (85 per cent), the cancer is not detected early enough to make surgery viable.

Pancreatic cancer is also resistant to conventional treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, because of the unusual architecture of the tumours, which have a heavy concentration of stromal cells. The cells interact with pancreatic cancer cells, protect the tumour, and promote its growth.

Virus infection could be a great treatment for pancreatic tumours.

In a study released Monday, however, Ottawa researchers say that the same biology that makes pancreatic tumours so robust also makes them vulnerable to attack by engineered viruses.

“The reason we’re so excited about these viruses is that they take advantage of the same things that the tumour uses to become a really good tumour: They exploit those for therapeutic benefit,” said Dr. John Bell, an Ottawa Hospital Research Institute senior scientist, who co-authored the study with post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Carolina Ilkow, and others.

Published in Nature Medicine, the study describes experiments designed to better understand the “ecosystem” of pancreatic tumours, which include complex networks of stromal and malignant cells. Stromal cells normally help maintain tissue, but can be co-opted by cancer cells to promote tumour growth.

We recently visited Dr. Bell and got an update on his cancer research – here’s what we learned:

If you would like to find out more about how the Cancer Foundation is helping through Cancer Coaching, Research and Clinical Trials, please feel free to contact me at 613-247-1920, ext. 227.

John Ouellette, CFRE
Executive VP, Philanthropy

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