Top 10 cancer breakthroughs of 2011

There were a number of significant cancer research discoveries in 2011, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, and many of them were made by Canadian researchers.

Breast cancer prevention drug and prostate cancer 'drug holiday' make list

Men with prostate cancer can take a drug holiday and reduce side effects of therapy, a clinical trial funded by the Canadian Cancer Society found. (Jae Hong/Associated Press)

There were a number of significant cancer research discoveries in 2011, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, and many of them were made by Canadian researchers.

"2011 has been a very exciting year for cancer research," spokesman Sarah Bouma said in a release announcing the society's top 10 findings on Wednesday. "Society-funded researchers have made tremendous gains, particularly in clinical trials."

The top 10 list:

  • A clinical trial involving Aromasin’s (exemestane) ability to prevent breast cancer suggests it cuts the risk in high-risk women by 65 per cent.
  • A Toronto-based research team establishes a surveillance protocol for families with Li-Fraumeni syndrome — a disease that significantly increases cancer risk — that increases the survival rate to 100 per cent after detection.
  • Researchers identify a human blood stem cell that is capable of regenerating the entire blood system.
  • A Canadian clinical trial suggests additional radiation in early-stage breast cancer can improve disease-free survival by 30 per cent and reduce the risk of recurrence.
  • Variants in the genetic material of ovarian cancer cells provide insight into how ovarian cancer develops.
  • A clinical trial funded by the Canadian Cancer Society finds that men with prostate cancer can take a drug holiday and reduce side effects of therapy.
  • A new imaging method, Laser Raman Spectroscopy, combined with existing methods is able to identify pre-cancerous lung nodules with 96 per cent accuracy and 91 per cent specificity, when used with existing methods.
  • Researchers develop nanoparticles called porphysomes that may effectively target and destroy tumours by converting light from a laser into energy that kills cancer cells.
  • A Health Canada study that found young men in Western Canada are the primary users of smokeless tobacco will help develop a tobacco-control strategy aimed at young people.
  • Researchers turn their attention to genes that decrease the risk of lymphoblastic leukemia in children in hopes of developing treatment options.