Calgary Herald

Doctor wages cancer battle


AHFMR clinical resident and a PhD candidate at the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute

Dr. John Kelly is on a mission to find a new way of fighting brain cancer. Kelly has devoted more than two years to studying stem cells because he, and many other researcher­s, believe stem cells could be connected to the growth of cancerous cells.

“We think there's a relationsh­ip between neural stem cells and brain tumours,” said Kelly.

Stem cells are thought to be a type of miracle cell, with the ability to replicate and repair the body, but evidence has linked stem cells to several cancers, including brain and breast cancer.

“One of the most important things we have been able to show is that the cancer stem cells are different than the normal neural stem cells in their growth factor requiremen­ts,” says Kelly.

He hopes his findings will lead to the developmen­t of drugs which will offer a better outcome for those diagnosed with brain cancer.

Kelly was born in Manchester, England, in 1975 and moved to Calgary at the age of five.

“I wanted to do medicine from an early age,” says Kelly.

As the son of a pathologis­t and psychiatri­st, it’s no surprise his parents played a large role in his choice to be a doctor.

Kelly graduated from the University of Alberta in 2001 with a medical degree and began his post-graduate residency training at the University of Calgary.

He became interested in stem cells while working with Dr. Samuel Weiss, director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

Kelly was extremely busy working on his residency, but his interest in stem cells and brain cancer led him to start this project on the side.

Shortly after, he enlisted the help of a few other labs working with brain cancer.

“Ian Parney, Peter Forsyth, Greg Cairncross and Sam Weiss have been extremely helpful during this research,” says Kelly.

There have been no real advances in the past 50 years for the most common type of brain cancer.

Kelly’s goal is to understand where brain tumours originate and which cell initiates the division causing a cancerous growth.

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