A Windsor scientist has been awarded Canadian Cancer Society funding for her innovative approach to studying how aggressive brain cancers develop. This promising work could lead to better diagnosis and treatment options in the future and save lives.

Dr Lisa Porter, Associate Professor at the University of Windsor, has received more than $185,000 through an Innovation Grant to study how brain cancer tumors, specifically high-grade gliomas, develop in their very earliest stages.

Gliomas are the most common type of primary brain tumour in adults and account for about 70% of all tumours of the central nervous system. Brain tumours are also a leading cause of cancer-related death in children. High-grade tumours are particularly aggressive because they tend to grow quickly.

Dr Porter and her team will investigate the role of a protein called Spy1 in how brain cancer develops from healthy cells. The Spy1 protein ensures that brain stem cells, which have the ability to develop into any kind of brain cells, are permitted to grow only when the brain needs them. If brain stem cells are not kept in check, they start grow to rapidly for a long time. Previous research has shown that high levels of Spy1 are found in brain tumours and are associated with poorer survival rates for patients.


Dr Porter’s innovative work is the first time the Spy1 protein will be studied from this angle. She will also examine the origins of brain cancer tumours from a new perspective, comparing how tumours develop in children and adults.

“Brain cancers are hard to treat because they represent some of the most aggressive forms of cancer that are very difficult to destroy with drugs, and often cause a recurrence. I’m grateful for the funding from the Canadian Cancer Society because our work could lead to the development of more effective and individualized brain cancer therapies for patients,” says Dr Porter.

Dr Porter has received Canadian Cancer Society research funding in the past through the Society’s partnership with the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance. This is Dr Porter’s first Innovation Grant.

In Canada, an estimated 2,800 people were diagnosed with brain cancer in 2012. Sadly, 1,850 people were estimated to die of this type of cancer. The relative five-year survival rate for all cancers combined is 62%. In stark contrast, the 5-year relative survival rate for brain cancer is only 23%.

SOURCE: Canadian Cancer Society (Ontario Division)

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