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February 2, 2007

Michele Martin
Lawson Health Research
Institute .
519-646-6100,ext. 64680

Judie Havers
Communications Consultant
London Health Sciences Centre
519-685-8500, ext. 58738

Alexander Peterson
London Health Sciences Foundation Communications

US Department of Defense Funds Cancer Research in London

Translational Cancer Research Makes a Difference in Obtaining Funds

London, Ont. - The Lawson Health Research Institute has received a rare Idea grant from the US Department of Defense for research at London Health Sciences Centre, London Regional Cancer Program working on identifying and treating breast cancer stem cells. Idea grants are given for innovative high risk/high reward breast cancer projects that represent a new paradigm in the study of breast cancer. Receiving this American grant speaks to the caliber of cancer research and the translational facility London, as very few of these grants are awarded to Canada and the success rate of applications for these grants averages less than five percent.

Breast cancer still remains a major cause of cancer related deaths in women. Research has shown that breast tumours contain groups of cells that are the primary contributors to progression, metastasis and resistance to therapy.

Killing or inhibiting all cells of a cancer may not be the best therapeutic approach, since only a small portion of the cancerous cells will spread or reproduce a tumour. The difficulty is identifying and targeting those cells that should be killed or inhibited. Drs. Eva Turley and James Koropatnick, scientists at Lawson Health Research Institute in the London Regional Cancer Program, London Health Sciences Centre along with Dr. Mina Bissell at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California are working to identify those cells. Using a non-invasive imaging method researchers hope to be able to differentiate between breast tumour cells and breast tumour stem cells. The latter are the cells that need to be eradicated so that the cancer doesn’t grow or spread.

“This research could contribute to the identification of cells in tumours that play a key role in the progression of breast cancer – those dangerous cells are called progenitor cells,” comments Dr. Turley. “As well, it could lead to better techniques for imaging breast tumours in patients.”

Advanced imaging techniques would result in improved staging of newly diagnosed breast tumours, identification of the best therapeutic approaches and potentially, improvement in outcomes for breast cancer patients. As the scientists test their hypothesis at the bench, they will work with physicians to implement new advances in patient care, coming back to the bench to fine tune their discoveries. This is a true example of the translational research happening at London Health Sciences Centre and Lawson.

Translational research advances scientific discoveries by shortening the journey from the lab bench to the patient bedside and back again - speeding up the translation of advances in research into new diagnostic and treatment breakthroughs. Patients receive better care sooner.

London Health Sciences Centre recognizes the importance of translating scientific discoveries into better patient care. A translational cancer research unit is currently being completed at London Health Sciences Centre to further facilitate this type of research and the London Health Sciences Foundation’s premier fundraising event - the sold-out, second annual Gold Ball, being held at the London Hilton this Saturday – is helping raise funds and awareness for this unique facility.

About Lawson Health Research Institute
The Lawson Health Research Institute is the research institute of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care, London. It is one of the largest hospital-based research institutes in Canada and is dedicated to helping people live healthier lives by advancing knowledge of how to prevent, diagnose and treat disease.

About London Health Sciences Centre
London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) is one of Canada’s largest acute-care teaching hospitals and is dedicated to excellence in patient care, teaching and research. LHSC has pioneered many national and international medical breakthroughs. Located in London, Ontario, LHSC encompasses three sites, South Street Hospital, University Hospital and Victoria Hospital; two family medical centres; and the London Regional Cancer Program. LHSC is the home of the Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario and CSTAR (Canadian Surgical Technologies & Advanced Robotics). The research arm of LHSC is Lawson Health Research Institute, which is partnered with London’s other teaching hospital, St. Joseph’s Health Care, London. LHSC is affiliated with The University of Western Ontario. Physicians and staff at LHSC number close to 9,000 and together they provided care for more than one million patient visits last year.

About London Health Sciences Foundation
For more than a decade, London Health Sciences Foundation has inspired investment in excellence at London Health Sciences Centre. London Health Sciences Foundation is a non-profit, charitable organization established in 1996 through the amalgamation of the University and Victoria Hospital Foundations. The Foundation links donors, health care consumers, the community and health care experts - including physicians, allied professionals, researchers, staff and educators - in pursuit of medical excellence at London Health Sciences Centre.