UAlberta researchers seek answers to the mysteries surrounding men's and women's cancers

Unique cancers require specialized solutions

Ross Neitz - 29 May 2017

It is a fact that cancer remains one of the world's biggest killers. Globally, nearly one in six deaths is due to cancer. Closer to home, nearly half of all men and more than one-third of all women in North America will experience a form of it during their lifetimes.

There are more than 100 types of cancer identified today-each its own disease with unique characteristics and challenges. While cures are still far off, researchers at the University of Alberta are pressing forward to discover solutions to the different types of cancer that specifically affect men or women. Among them are professors of oncology John Lewis and Lynne Postovit.

Lewis is the Frank and Carla Sojonky Chair in Prostate Cancer Research at the University of Alberta and a member of the Cancer Research Institute of Northern Alberta (CRINA). According to him, up to 80 per cent of men will have prostate cancer by the time they reach 80 years old. Since first focusing his career on prostate cancer 11 years ago, Lewis has seen significant advances in the fight against the disease, but he believes the best is yet to come.

"No man dies from prostate cancer that stays in the prostate. It is the spread, or metastasis of cancer that is deadly," says Lewis. "Current tests and treatments don't target metastasis directly, but these advances are now on the horizon."

While Lewis' focus is men's cancer, Lynne Postovit seeks solutions to forms of the disease affecting women.

Postovit-the Anthony Noujaim Legacy Oncology Chair and the Sawin-Baldwin Chair in Ovarian Cancer-was recruited to the U of A in 2013 as one of Canada's leading women's cancer researchers. Through her work, progress is being made to better understand the biomarkers for ovarian cancer and how advanced ovarian cancers resist treatment.

"We want to know how ovarian cancer can continue to grow and spread even though the disease is being treated very aggressively," says Postovit. "If ovarian cancer is caught early, it is very easy to treat. But in most cases it isn't detectable until later stages, when the cure rate is less than 50 per cent. This type of cancer needs more people looking at it, and more awareness."

Together Postovit and Lewis are making strong strides in their individual fields-two key players among a team of scientists pushing U of A cancer research forward.

"We are looking forward to doing great things-to making a real difference for patients," says Postovit.

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