Dr. John Lewis awarded prestigious NCIC Grant

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Combining innovative scientific research with a passion for helping others, Lawson Health Research Institute scientist, Dr. John Lewis, has dedicated himself to finding out how to stop the spread of cancer.

And this spring, the National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC), through the 2006 Operating Grants Competition, has awarded the Terry Fox Foundation Research Grant for New Investigators, and the Terry Fox Foundation Equipment Grant for New Investigators to Dr. Lewis for his groundbreaking work.

“This newly-funded NCIC grant will be used to discover biological information about prostate cancers that affects how invasive and metastatic they will be. This is critical information that can help to determine the type of treatment that patients will receive,” Dr. Lewis says. “The goal will be to develop promising new ways of obtaining that information using non-invasive imaging methods.”

Beginning July 1, 2007, Dr. Lewis will receive $125,022 per year over the next three years for his research, plus an additional $73,915 for equipment for 2007-2008, representing a grand total of $448,981 in NCIC new grant funding.

“John’s research will allow us to screen for the genes responsible for metastasis which remains the crucial component in the deadliness of prostate cancer,” says Dr. Jim Koropatnick, Director, Cancer Research Laboratory Program at London Regional Cancer Program at Lawson Health Research Institute. “In his role as Hardie Chair in Prostate Cancer Research, John also provides a wonderful new link between basic researchers and academic clinicians in the prostate cancer group. Those links promise to speed biological information from the laboratory to the clinic.”

As principal investigator, Dr. Lewis is closely examining the key proteins that allow cancer cells to move away or metastasize from the original tumour in an effort to develop therapies that will improve the outlook and quality of life for patients suffering from metastatic cancer.

Over the past three years, Dr. Lewis has developed an integrated platform to study cancer in vivo using fertilized chicken eggs that enable him to see how tumours grow and spread over a period of days and weeks. Nanotechnology allows Dr. Lewis to highlight blood vessels and cancer cells so he can study their behaviour at a microscopic level. Combining these tools with state of the art microscopy, his platform utilizes sophisticated imaging software and methods of measurement that allow him to view cancer tumours that are smaller than a millimetre in size.

With a family history of prostate cancer, Dr. Lewis is driven both on a personal level and on a larger scientific level as he helps to develop a greater understanding of this often-deadly disease. Although his primary interest is prostate cancer, Dr. Lewis underlined that his research is applicable to all forms of cancer that can become metastatic. “Cancer is a disease with many different aspects,” he says. “As we develop our understanding of how cancer spreads, this new information can be used to develop new therapeutics in the form of anti-metastatic drugs.”Dr. Lewis quoted a recent study that showed that patients with non-metastatic prostate cancer had a 10-year survival rate of approximately 73 per cent. However, in that study, patients with metastatic prostate cancer had a survival rate of about seven per cent over the same time period.”We still don’t know the root causes of prostate cancer, and early detection is difficult and unreliable,” he says. “If we can detect tumours shortly after they form and understand how they grow and spread, we have an opportunity to develop valuable treatments for prostate cancer that could apply to other metastatic cancers as well.”

Dr. John Lewis is an Oncology Scientist with the London Regional Cancer Program at Lawson Health Research Institute. He is also an Assistant Professor of Oncology, Surgery, and Medical Biophysics at The University of Western Ontario, and he holds the Robert Hardie Chair in Translational Prostate Cancer Research.