London-based researcher Alison Allan has been awarded about $450,000 to continue to work uncovering the science behind the spread of breast cancer.
Allan is one of 43 grant recipients from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, which announced $9.9 million to aid breast cancer research projects across the province.
“It’s a huge boost to my research program,” said Allan. “Now we can move ahead much faster and get more people working on the project. The ultimate goal is to make my research benefit patients.”
One in nine Canadian women are expected to develop breast cancer during their lifetime, making it the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women over the age of 20.
Most cases are curable, but once the disease spreads beyond the breast to other organs, cure rates decline.
“Often we don’t know when it has started to spread. Metastasis accounts for 90 per cent of all breast cancer deaths,” said Allan, whose research focuses on the spreading of the disease.
Research has shown that breast cancer does not spread randomly. Aggressive cancer cells seem to choose specific organs, like the lymph nodes, bones, brain, lungs, and liver, to take root in and grow. Allan wants to find out what factors make them more attractive to cancer cells.
She says this knowledge could lead to earlier identification and treatment, as well as the development of new drugs to disrupt the interaction between cancer cells and the organ.
The London native has been working on breast cancer research projects for more than six years, and is happy to see funding go to local projects.
London has one of the strongest breast cancer research programs in the province, says Allan.
“The majority of funding comes from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure, which happens every year in September, and we always participate,” Allan said. “I think its really nice for people in London to know their dollars are staying local and supporting breast cancer research here.”
This year’s run will take place at cities all over Canada on Sept. 30, 2012.