New Treatment for Cancer?

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The efforts of a decade-long joint research project between the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) were announced recently and may be the most important stride in cancer treatment to date.

A new class of therapeutic drugs currently going by the decidedly clinical moniker CFI400945 was announced to an anxious crowd of media, clinicians, researchers and patients in the open-air atrium of Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital. They target genomically unstable cancer cells, what Dr. Dennis Slamon of UCLA described as a “sharpshooter” approach that will be used against a multitude of cancers including breast, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic, lung and melanoma.

“Instead of throwing a bomb, hoping to kill more bad than good cells, they will target the malignant cells …  and the normal cells, they will be safe,” explained Slamon.

Leading the research is Dr. Tak Mak, director of the Campbell Family Cancer Research Institute and a member of Zoomer’s Top 45 over 45 in 2012.  The science is complex, even with Mak’s attempt to describe the process using an amusing analogy of school bus monitors looking out for the bad kids. After his groundbreaking work in immunology research in 2004, Tak decided to put his efforts into breast cancer treatment where he felt there was a great need.

At the end of the press conference, as he thanked colleagues, supporters and donors, the poignancy of Mak’s enduring passion touched many in attendance as he fought back tears with the following pledge to find a cure. “There are many other questions to be answered, but we’re trying. [IF it doesn’t work] there will be another drug next year and the next year and the next year.”

The drugs are slated for clinical trials by year-end, pending approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada.