Alberta Cancer Foundation

In this issue of Leap magazine, we look at neuro-oncology excellence in this province. Neuro-oncology pulls together a multidisciplinary team that includes neurosurgeons, basic researchers, radiation oncologists, psychologists, pharmacists and exercise physiologists, to plan a treatment that is comprehensive for each patient.

Brain cancer is a devastating disease. Years ago, that diagnosis was almost always accompanied by poor outcomes. But we are making progress. In Alberta, we are privileged to be home to a world-class hub of brain cancer research, led, in part, by Dr. Gregory Cairncross, the first recipient of the Alberta Cancer Foundation Chair in Brain Tumour Research.

In the article, “Brainiacs,” you will read about how, more than 20 years ago, he and Dr. David Macdonald discovered that oligodendroglioma, a type of brain tumour, is sensitive to chemotherapy. They also later discovered a molecular marker of chemosensitivity that meant a much longer survival with this type of brain cancer. Their discoveries have since become standard practice in oligodendroglioma treatment around the world. In the same piece, you will meet Dr. Jennifer Chan, recruited from Harvard. She talks about how, 60 years ago, people diagnosed with brain cancer were given a death sentence. Today, there are a number of options available that improve the lives of cancer patients.

We also learn about how a pharmacy team embedded in the neuro-oncology clinic at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre (p. 29) takes a unique approach to treating the whole patient, not just the cancer. It’s these incremental findings that are adding up to transformative changes, and as this concentration of bright minds continues to work, we know they will push the pace of discovery even more.

This collaboration allows for the development of translational research so that therapies created in the lab can be brought to the clinical setting – allowing Albertans access to new therapies and procedures that may not be available elsewhere.

Since this issue of Leap is all about neuro-oncology, it is the perfect time to announce that evaluators are in the process of selecting a candidate who’ll be the recipient for the first Alyson Woloshyn Cancer Research Clinical Fellowship. Alyson has been an inspiring community activist, speaking at our events and raising funds for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. As she has said, it is important to give back to the research community that extended and improved her quality of life when she was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour almost four years ago. We will announce the recipient of that award in our next issue of Leap.

As we learn more about this progress we are making, we will share it with you. Enjoy reading about Alberta innovation.

John Osler, Chair
Alberta Cancer Foundation

Myka Osinchuk, CEO
Alberta Cancer Foundation