New Brunswick

Saint John to head national cancer study

A study involving hundreds of cancer patients and research teams across the country will be led by Dr. Tony Reiman from UNB Saint John.

Oncologist and UNB Saint John professor picked by Terry Fox Research Institute

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick will lead a national study on multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. 2:02

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick will lead a national study on multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

Dr. Tony Reiman, a medical oncologist and professor at UNB Saint John, will head the team, which also features researchers and clinicians from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

The project received $5 million from the Terry Fox Research Institute this week.

"We research many types of cancer, but for this particular case, we want to fund a cancer that we don't have a very good solution for," said Victor Ling, president and scientific director of the Terry Fox Research Institute.

"It's one of what we call hard-to-treat cancers. The other reason we want to fund it is because there are experts across the country, including in Saint John, that can come together as a team and have world-class expertise to tackle this problem."

Recurring cancer

Multiple myeloma is hard to treat because despite good initial results, it often recurs, and stronger.

"It's what we call a drug-resistant cancer," said Ling. "It can be caused for many reasons. But the idea for this project is to be able to detect the cancer that comes back as soon as possible, so we have the best chance of trying to beat that resistant cancer."

For the study, Reiman and his team will use new technologies available in Saint John and the other centres.

The Terry Fox Research Institute has sponsored over 20 pan-Canadian cancer studies. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

"We will look at individual cancer cells using computerized lasers in order to detect them as soon as possible, understand, and characterize them," said Ling. "We will look at the DNA of these cells, or even detect the DNA in the blood, even before we can find a cell, and figure out if there is any mutation in the DNA of the resistant cells that we can find drugs to deal with as soon as possible."

Our hope is that the lives of patients will be extended, and that the lives of patients will be saved.- Victor Ling, Terry Fox Research Institute

Across the country,  250 patients are now involved in the study who will be followed and analyzed while being treated.

Ling hopes with the study going on at the same time the patients are ill, it will help their treatment as well.

"Sometimes there are drugs out there that might not be indicated for multiple myeloma, but because of the knowledge of the mutations in the DNA of these cells, these other drugs, new drugs, can be used," he said. "Our hope is that the lives of patients will be extended, and that the lives of patients will be saved."

The Terry Fox Research Institute has sponsored more than 20 pan-Canadian cancer studies, and this is the first to be led from New Brunswick.

With files from Information Morning Saint John