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Sea Sponge Cancer Treatment Among 73 New Projects Announced by Canadian Cancer Society

Society funding more than $47 million in cancer research across Canada

this year

TORONTO, May 4 /CNW/ - Surfacing new life-saving cancer treatments from

the world's oceans is the focus of one of 73 new research grants announced

today by the Canadian Cancer Society.

The $685,000, five-year grant is focused on developing new anti-cancer

drugs inspired by animals that live in the sea. From Vancouver's coasts to the

coral reefs of Papua New Guinea, the research team will be collecting hundreds

of sea animals, such as sponges, and examining the powerful chemicals they

house inside.

A drug developed by Canadian Cancer Society researcher Dr. Raymond

Andersen during a previous grant from the Society is already being tested in

phase II clinical trials with lung cancer patients. Another developed to treat

blood cancers such as multiple myeloma is looking promising in laboratory

tests and with the new funding announced today, Dr. Andersen is optimistic it

will move to clinical trials soon.

"The ocean is a rich and diverse source of inspiration for cancer

treatment," says Dr. Andersen. "Many common anti-cancer drugs have come from

nature, such as the Pacific yew tree and even microorganisms found in soil.

We're building on this successful track record by looking to the ocean for new


Dr. Andersen and his team will screen the marine-based chemicals they

find for their cancer fighting abilities. They will then produce synthetic

versions of only the most promising ones and test their potential as new

treatments on laboratory-grown cancer cells.

Dr. Andersen's ultimate goal is to make targeted drugs that are more

effective, that have fewer side effects on patients and that can treat cancers

already resistant to conventional therapies.

"We made a lot of exciting progress with our last Canadian Cancer Society

grant, and have laid some excellent groundwork for even more discoveries in

the next five years," says Dr. Andersen, who is based at the University of

British Columbia in Vancouver. "New and better cancer treatments are clearly

needed and this new funding is ensuring we can help even more patients beat


The 73 new research grants being funded this year across a full spectrum

of cancer research bring the Society's total investment in research to

$47.3 million in 2006.

"Funding the best cancer research in the country is among our top

priorities," says Dr. Barbara Whylie, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society. "The

research we support is saving lives and making a difference for Canadians

every day. We are grateful for the generosity of our donors and volunteers

that ensures our progress against cancer continues."

Among the other research grants announced today by the Society:

Reducing youth smoking: Dr. Jennifer O'Loughlin, based in Montreal,

Quebec, was awarded $1.1 million over five years to continue a long-term study

investigating nicotine addiction in young adults and to find out why 20% of

Canadian youth become adult smokers. Using a combination of genetic studies

and surveys Dr. O'Loughlin will also look at other unhealthy behaviors related

to smoking such as alcohol and drug abuse and physical activity. The findings

will help develop successful anti-smoking programs for young people.

New prostate cancer screening tool: Dr. Robert Nam, based in Toronto,

Ontario, was awarded $462,000 over three years to test his newly-developed

"nomogram" prediction tool which calculates a man's risk of developing

prostate cancer using the standard PSA blood test in combination with an

analysis of certain factors such as age, family history and race. Dr. Nam

hopes the tool will address the confusion about how to interpret PSA levels

for the early detection of prostate cancer when it can be most easily treated.

Reducing endometrial cancer risk: Dr. Christine Friedenreich, based in

Calgary, Alberta, was awarded $186,000 over two years to study 1,500 women to

determine how physical activity, diet and obesity influence the risk of

getting endometrial cancer. Specifically, Dr. Friedenreich will be looking at

factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose and abdominal fat.

Their findings about the effects of lifestyle on endometrial cancer will

provide useful recommendations for women at risk of this cancer.

Early detection for leukemia: Dr. Johann Hitzler based in Toronto,

Ontario, was awarded $381,000 over five years to study a type of leukemia -

acute megakaryocytic leukemia - that most commonly occurs in children with

Down syndrome. Dr. Hitzler's team hopes to study the mechanisms underlying

this cancer with the long term goal of early detection in newborns and

possibly prevention.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of

volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and to enhance the quality of

life of people living with cancer. It is the largest charitable funder of

cancer research in Canada. This year, the Society is funding more than

$47 million in leading-edge research projects across the country. When you

want to know more about cancer, visit our website at www.cancer.ca or call our

toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

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