Blood samples create cancer-fighting resource

B.C. Cancer Agency project to collect samples for a 'biobank' starts in Kelowna.

Dr. Janine Davies

Newly-diagnosed cancer patients in the Southern Interior are being asked to help researchers in their fight against the disease by joining what the head of the project here calls a “biobank.”

Dr. Janine Davies, a medical oncologist with the B.C. Cancer Agency in Kelowna and the principle investigator with PREDICT (Personal Response Determinants In Cancer Therapy), told the B.C. Cancer Foundation’s annual Discovery Lunch Wednesday that by taking donated blood samples from patients, researchers could discover why some cancers affect people differently.

“PREDICT will help make patients part of the solution to the cancer problem by enabling our research to focus on the important questions,” said Davies.

“It will create a resource of patient information, blood samples, and eventually tumour samples, that can be used by researchers worldwide.

“These samples will help us to shape future treatment decisions, improving outcomes for patients down the road.“

This follows the model of a similar pilot project that started in Victoria in 2006.

PREDICT will give newly-diagnosed cancer patients the opportunity to voluntarily contribute blood samples and information to the biobank in order to help researchers answer what Davies called critical questions about cancer to advance patient care.

When the program started in Victoria, 90 per cent of new patients at the Vancouver Island Cancer Centre agreed to participate and Davies said the Sindi Ahluwalia Hawkins Centre For the Southern Interior in Kelowna wants to help build on that success with thousands of samples from patients here.

Over the next few years, local cancer researchers hope to collect 5,000 samples to add to the 6,500 samples already collected on Vancouver Island.

The samples will be kept in Victoria and Davies said strict protocols will be put in place for researchers to use them as they look at specific questions about the disease.

She said in a year’s time, she hopes the biobank will include tumour samples as well.

At the lunch on Wednesday, $60,000 was raised towards the cost of the project here, money that will be added to the $110,000 already raised.

The total cost of the project is $365,000.

Cancer patient Don Robertson, who shared his story of battling a very rare form of cancer over the last 18 years, urged his fellow patients to participate in PREDICT, announcing he had already signed up.

“I am here today because someone donated to research that helped find the drug that is keeping me alive,” Robertsons aid.

“I’m now closer than ever to my wife and I’m able to have more time with our two sons.

“Everyone is so busy today that it is important to remember the impact just one person can make by participating in cancer research and help make a difference.”

Davies said the kind of breakthroughs that could result from knowing why some cancers affect people in different ways could change the way cancer patients are treated in future.

To participate in the PREDICIT program, patients must be new patients at the B.C. Cancer Agency in the Southern Interior, over 19 years of age and have not received chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Patients who have had surgery or hormone treatments for cancer are eligible.

To learn more about the project, contact the B.C. Cancer Agency in Kelowna.



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