Backed by the generosity of Canadians, the extraordinary efforts of the country’s cancer research community are yielding impressive results in the emerging field of cancer biotherapeutics and immunotherapies. Research here and around the globe is showing the promise of these novel therapies that harness the body’s own defence mechanisms to attack cancer. Researchers are diligently testing and retesting discoveries to generate new therapies with the potential to beat cancer for the long term — not just add weeks to a person’s life; not just improve quality of life.
I fundamentally believe that we can hasten the arrival of these therapies by working together — a message that’s perfectly in sync with the theme of 2016 World Cancer Day: “We can. I can.”
This theme underscores what BioCanRx is all about and one of the reasons my colleagues and I have worked so hard to make the network a reality. At its core, BioCanRx funds excellent science and innovative research in cancer biotherapies and immunotherapies. But more than this, it accelerates their journey from the lab to the clinic by enhancing partnerships and fostering new ones, leading workshops to generate collaborative projects for our research programs, and by supporting the next generation of researchers as we build a strong cancer biotechnology sector in Canada.
Along with our partners, we are currently providing funds to 14 projects in our four research programs. We are also providing vital support to the infrastructure needed for the success of these projects. This is all working toward our goal of accelerating Canada’s most promising biologically based cancer treatments into clinical trials.
As a scientist who has spent more than two decades studying cancer-killing properties of viruses, I am hopeful that the promise we have seen in the lab will soon translate into real benefits for patients. The first approval of an oncolytic virus therapy last fall marks that beginning for this new therapeutic approach.
And in the field of cancer immunotherapies as a whole, we are seeing the glimpses of real potential in patients, in Canada and elsewhere.
The striking thing is that when cancer patients respond to immunotherapies and biotherapies, they respond very well. But not everyone does. We need to know why, so patients are given therapies that have the best chance of being effective and are not subjected to false hope when time is often running out. BioCanRx is also committed to helping unravel this part of the puzzle to improve outcomes and decision-making for patients. So amid the successes and promise, my colleagues and I know there is still a journey ahead. Nonetheless, I am enthusiastic about the road we are travelling and am confident we will see some great things along the way.
As one of the many players in the cancer research enterprise, we are built on a foundation that recognizes the power of “we.” Effective research is accelerated by collective effort. We are doing our best to enable that collective effort. If we can all get behind a commitment to “We can. I can,” we will certainly accelerate progress and help cancer patients and their families sooner.
We are committed to doing our part by working with many individuals, businesses and organizations, in Canada and abroad, to hasten the encouraging work found in our network of amazing researchers.
I hope this is something you can get behind, too, if you aren’t already. Participate in an event. Volunteer. Support a charity. Support research. There are countless ways.
It is noticed. It is appreciated. It is important. And together, it is impressive.
John C. Bell, PhD
Scientific Director, BioCanRx: Biotherapeutics for Cancer Treatment