There is a new number one enemy in Canada and it is cancer. Based on 2017 statistics, 1 in 4 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer, and of these, 1 in 2 individuals will fail to respond to treatment and succumb to the disease. Although survival time for patients has grown longer over the years, showing a direct correlation to the benefits and impact of research, the success rates remain unacceptably low. The recent 2017 statistics hint that current therapies can be improved, and in doing so we would no longer measure survival times but rather measure cure rates instead.
The Bhatia Program’s disease focus is on HUMAN cancer, and our gateway disease is acute myeloid leukemia (AML), however, much of our research is applicable for other cancers with related mutated signaling pathways and defects, such as breast cancer, colon cancer, and certain types of brain tumors where the findings from our AML studies are expanded and tested. These cancers have been characterised as having cancerous stem cells at the root of the disease and our research comparing normal with cancerous stem cells have provided key insights into new therapeutic approaches we hope to move toward patients.
Our research utilises patient-donated samples allowing us to perform pre-clinical testing using candidate drugs and compare our results against clinical observations. The candidate drugs my program tests are potential therapeutic options to current chemotherapies with the ability to preserve healthy cells while only affecting cancer cells. Traditional chemotherapies are not selective and therefore impact both healthy and cancerous cells alike. Our program identifies new target proteins and pathways found only in cancer cells, using candidate drugs that have little effect on the healthy cells of patients but effectively abolish cancer cells.
As a result of my programs research findings over the past few years, we are placing greater emphasis on translational research leading towards clinical studies with the goal of positively impacting human health by testing new ideas and therapeutics for patients whose options are currently limited with standard care. To this end, there are numerous ongoing pre-clinical and clinical activities underway towards the goal of Phase I trials.