Researchers are honing in on the basic molecular and genetic components of cancer in their quest to develop more effective, less toxic therapies. The discovery of novel treatments that target the particular genetic mutation that enables malignant cells to replicate without control in a particular patient promises to eradicate cancers without damaging healthy cells. As a result, patients will enjoy better quality of life and better prospects for survival.
When patients are waiting breathlessly for a new treatment that will extend their life and put their cancer into remission, they are really hoping that researchers are about to deliver some new medication that will take a new approach to attacking those malignant cells that are replicating and growing within them.
Hematologist-oncologist Dr. Sarit Assouline is but one example of a clinician-scientist with the Clinical Research Unit at the Segal Cancer Centre who has an active and successful program providing the latest innovations in cancer therapies to eligible patients. She is looking, specifically, at novel treatments for leukemia and lymphoma.
“When I arrived here in 2005, we had no early phase trials underway. Now, we have more than fifty patients enrolled in eight different drug development studies,” she said. “This represents a major advance for our patients, and also has a broader impact because the results of our trials will assist leukemia and lymphoma sufferers beyond the walls of this institution.”
Medical research achieves its objective when discoveries from the lab evolve into safe and effective treatments for patients. Clinical research is that essential collaboration between patients and physicians through which novel therapies are tested, hopefully, to emerge as the gold standard of treatment.
The Jewish General Hospital is rigorous in its process for selecting the trials in which its patients participate. The proposed medication is carefully evaluated by the supervising physicians until they are confident of its safety and promise, and the Research Ethics Office oversees all aspects of the implementation and administration of the trial.
Patients at the Segal Cancer Centre have participated in clinical trials for several drugs that have gone on to receive approval for widespread use from the American Food and Drug Administration against leukemia and multiple myeloma.
“To have the drugs that our patients test accepted as the standard of care is the milestone we aim for,” Dr. Assouline said enthusiastically, “our efforts and our patients’ contributions have made it possible to save, prolong, and improve lives.”
Patients are generally anxious for the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. However, it is important to Dr. Assouline and the entire clinical research team to spread information about trials in order that qualified patients are made aware of their existence.
Leukemias and lymphomas are devastating cancers that are always life threatening. We need new therapies in order to cure more people. And we need to better understand the diseases so that we can develop new and less toxic therapies.
The Cancer Research Axis is led by Dr. Gerald Batist, Director of the Segal Cancer Centre (SCC) and Deputy Director of the LDI. Research activities include both fundamental laboratory-based and clinical investigations, with particular emphasis on molecular oncology (molecular-level changes which take place in cancerous or pre-cancerous cells), cancer prevention (factors that contribute to the development and progression of tumours), cancer genetics (genes that predispose an individual to cancer), biomarkers in cancer therapy (identification of biomarkers that may serve to identify particular risk factors, or to serve as targets for “patient-tailored” therapy), new cancer therapies (different chemical and biological approaches to the discovery and development of cancer therapies), translational physics and radiobiology (combination of molecular targeted therapies and ionizing radiation with real-time imaging and molecular imaging of both the tumour and its microenvironment), psychosocial oncology (addresses coping, communication, information-seeking behaviour, decision-making, fertility and sexuality issues, and risk information transmission to improve health outcomes and quality of life for cancer patients, their families and caregivers), and evaluative research (includes international leadership in robotic surgery for various types of cancers, health services research, as well as outcome evaluation and integration of cancer care).
The Axis represents the single largest area of research at the LDI and involves one of the largest groups of clinician-scientists in Québec striving to better understand the biological make-up of cancer, the development of novel therapies, and better means of prevention. At the Segal Cancer Centre, synergy between the laboratory and the clinic enables progress on important translational efforts to provide patients with the most promising treatment options.
As co-founder of Q-CROC, Dr. Batist has been instrumental in
establishing links between investigators at the LDI, the SCC,
Support the work of Dr. Assouline and her fellow Cancer Axis researchers at the Segal Cancer Centre and in the Lady Davis Institute, and contribute to the development of more effective and less toxic therapies for a broad range of cancers.