Why do some peo­ple never get can­cer?

In­no­va­tive Cana­dian Can­cer Society study of Que­bec and other prov­inces “su­per se­niors» aims to find out

Stanstead Journal - - FORUM -

He’s 106, but Dr Robert Wiener isn’t ready to slow down. He’s on his ex­er­cise bike ev­ery day, and does 2 ex­er­cise classes a week, plus yoga and tai chi. A re­tired oral sur­geon and the old­est res­i­dent in his Mon­treal re­tire­ment home, he says his se­cret to a long, healthy life is a com­bi­na­tion of good genes and a healthy lifestyle. “Laugh­ter is the best medicine,” he says. “Ex­er­cise a lot, eat prop­erly and don’t stop at the pub too of­ten.”

Dr Wiener is one of 500 su­per se­niors tak­ing part in a new re­search study funded by the Cana­dian Can­cer Society to de­ter­mine why some peo­ple live can­cer-free into their 80s, 90s and be­yond 100. In De­cem­ber 2014, the Cana­dian Can­cer Society reached out to Cana­di­ans to join to­gether and raise $200,000 to es­tab­lish a high-risk, high-re­ward, can­cer re­search project. Al­most $65,000 of the money raised came from Que­bec. The su­per se­nior re­search project was named as the Cana­dian Can­cer Society’s first Great Cana­dian In­no­va­tion Grant. About the su­per se­niors project Dr An­gela Brooks-Wil­son of the BC Can­cer Agency and Si­mon Fraser Univer­sity and her team al­ready have gath­ered de­tailed in­for­ma­tion from 500 healthy peo­ple aged 85 to 109. The se­niors pro­vided med­i­cal, fam­ily and lifestyle in­for­ma­tion, as well as a blood sample, and were tested for phys­i­cal and men­tal func­tion. She and co-leader Dr Denise Da­ley, of St. Paul’s Hos­pi­tal and UBC, will now com­pare the genes of the su­per se­niors to those of more than 100,000 peo­ple, some who have can­cer and some who don’t.

Stud­ies have shown that many peo­ple who live to an in­cred­i­bly healthy old age ac­tu­ally do have gene se­quences that con­trib­ute to can­cer in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, but for some rea­son they do not de­velop the dis­ease. Sci­en­tists sus­pect there is some­thing that pro­tects them from get­ting sick by over­rid­ing the can­cer-caus­ing genes.

The study is still ac­cept­ing new su­per se­niors. Que­be­cers aged 85 or older and who have never been di­ag­nosed with can­cer, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease or stroke, de­men­tia, ma­jor lung dis­ease or di­a­betes, are wel­comed to par­tic­i­pate in the re­search study. Any­one over 100, can reg­is­ter re­gard­less of their health. Visit the Cana­dian Can­cer Society’s web­site here for de­tails.

“There is ev­i­dence from other stud­ies that lifestyle be­hav­iours, such as not smok­ing, eat­ing a bal­anced diet, low al­co­hol in­take and get­ting regular ex­er­cise, play a huge role in not get­ting can­cer, but we sus­pect some Que­be­cers are ge­net­i­cally pro­tected from can­cer-caus­ing mu­ta­tions. The ul­ti­mate goal of the Cana­dian Can­cer Society’s su­per se­niors re­search project is to iden­tify pos­si­ble ge­netic “over­ride switches,” which could even­tu­ally lead to the devel­op­ment of anti-can­cer drugs. It’s pos­si­ble that such drugs, com­bined with a healthy lifestyle, could help other peo­ple to have a lower risk of get­ting can­cer”, says Sylvie Pois­sant, Pub­lic Af­fairs Direc­tor, CCS – Que­bec Divi­sion. About Cana­dian Can­cer Society In­no­va­tion Grants

As com­pe­ti­tion for grant fund­ing in­creases, ex­pert-re­view pan­els be­come more con­ser­va­tive and risk averse, em­pha­siz­ing fea­si­bil­ity more than in­no­va­tion. The goal of the In­no­va­tion grants pro­gram is to sup­port un­con­ven­tional con­cepts or ap­proaches to ad­dress im­por­tant prob­lems in can­cer. Suc­cess­ful projects may be based on high risk ideas, but will have the po­ten­tial for high re­ward (i.e. to sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease our un­der­stand­ing of can­cer and gen­er­ate new ap­proaches to com­bat the dis­ease by in­tro­duc­ing novel ideas into use or prac­tice). Learn more about the In­no­va­tion grants here.

Ev­ery day, the Cana­dian Can­cer Society works to save more lives. With the sup­port of thou­sands of Que­be­cers, donors and vol­un­teers, we fight to pre­vent more can­cers, en­able our re­searchers to make more dis­cov­er­ies and help more peo­ple touched by the dis­ease. Let’s save more lives. Visit can­cer.ca or call us at 1 888 939-3333.

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