By DOUG MCINTYRE, SUN MEDIA
Leading medical minds on both sides of the border are joining a U of C-led study aimed at stemming brain cancer, one of the most mysterious — and lethal — forms of the disease.
The three-year collaboration received a $1.28-million boost yesterday from the Ivy Foundation, based in Palo Alto, Calif., and will see Dr. Peter Forsyth develop and test blockers of a protein called p75 — believed an accelerant of potentially deadly tumour cells in the brain.
“It’s sort of building the tools to attack the protein that does this,” said the U of C oncology professor, adding the offending protein is present in 80% of patients suffering from glioblastoma (GBM), the most severe form of brain cancer.
“This protein is important in allowing the tumour cells to invade into the brain, which is the whole problem … you can’t treat them surgically as they are not a little lump.”
This diffuse nature of cancer cells’ invasion into the human brain makes surgery near impossible and prognoses grim.
“We’re still scratching our heads as to the cause and that makes it very frustrating,” said Forsyth.
“It’s not clearly associated with a lifestyle choice like smoking or not exercising,” he said, adding hereditary factors also don’t seem to come into play. About 250 Albertans are diagnosed with brain cancer each year, making it the 10th most common cancer.