Paul Balfour talks about Progress in Cancer Research


I just read the following blog post from Paul Balfour.  Paul captains the Phillips Hager & North team that raised a total of $292,000 for cancer research at the BC Cancer Foundation last year.  This year Paul has already raised over $60,000 personally, and his team will surpass $350,000 raised.

On the evening before our Ride to Conquer Cancer, this strikes at the heart of why we Ride.  Thanks for the inspiration Paul!

Progress

by Paul Balfour on Fri, Jun 18, 2010 @ 3:41 PM

I think one thing that we in the fundraising community hasn’t done a very good job of is communicating just how much great progress is being made in fighting, and in many cases, curing cancer.

Typically, we set out to fundraise by talking about how awful the disease is (and it is, make no mistake about that) and how incidence rates are rising etc. and but I think perhaps by doing that people get the impression that little progress is being made or that cancer is starting to rage out of control.

Incidence rates for the population as a whole have been increasing but for mostly the simple reason that we are living longer and we have gotten much, much better at preventing deaths in other areas. Far fewer people are dying from heart attacks and strokes, far fewer are dying in car crashes in fact the decline in mortality rates for just about everything is quite remarkable. So, in a sort of good news/bad news story, the increase in incidence rates is concentrated in the older segment of the population living longer and having the chance to develop cancer in the first place and the drop in mortality rates in just about everything else.

But progress in cancer treatment is being made, year in and year out. It’s indisputable. Consider a few observations.

Childhood leukemia used to be fatal 90% of the time. Now it’s a 90% survival rate. Because of research. Testicular cancer (Lance Armstrong) used to be a very serious disease. It still is, but the survival rate is now 96%. Due to research.

Outcomes in breast and prostate cancer have improved in recent years to close to the 90% level. Thanks to research.

There is a disease called CML (Chronic myelogenous leukemia) that used to be pretty much fatal. Scientists knew it was caused by a mutated gene and one day (okay over a period of a couple of years) a drug was discovered called Gleevec and further refined to a pill form. So, you used to die from this cancer and now … as long as you take a pill every day, you’re fine. Cool. All due to research.

What’s also neat is that this same drug works like a charm on a type of nasty stomach cancer. Here’s where it gets really interesting: the two cancers’ cells look absolutely different under the microscope but the same drug “cures” them. Why is that? Well, these two cancers have that same genetic mutation in common.

So, what if we could do a better job of analyzing the genome of the patient for clues as to the causes for cancer and come up with other breakthroughs?

Well guess what the BC Cancer Agency is doing? Exactly that! In fact the Genome Science Centre here in Vancouver is a leader (many say the leader) in this area. Ask a scientist you know sometime how hard it is to get published in the science journal Nature. It’s unbelievably hard. Three significant breakthroughs by the BC Cancer Agency and the Genome Science Centre have been published in Nature in the past twelve months. How many other centres have had three major findings in that period of time? Um, none actually. Two? None.

Pretty impressive I say, right here in little ol’ Vancouver. Also, it’s an open book here we share that research with the rest of Canada and the world, make no mistake about that.

But it takes money. It takes a lot of money to keep this progress going. There are also plenty of patients who are on the wrong side of those survivorship rates and they really need help. There are some tumour groups where we have made very little progress for decades (brain and pancreatic in particular) using conventional therapies my guess is the genome will prove to be the key here. It will take money to do that though.

Please support me if you can, by donating here or at the link below. No donation is too small … and as my friend Michael likes to say, no donation is to big!

Thanks for reading this.

…and thank you Paul!  Here’s a link to his Ride page should you want to make a donation.

http://www.conquercancer.ca/site/TR/Events/Vancouver2010/1742352005?px=1759724&pg=personal&fr_id=1331

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