Funding Boosts Cancer Research
BY BARRY GUNN
Prof. Jim Petrik, Biomedical Sciences, has received $200,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Gender and Health and from the Ontario Women’s Health Council to expand his work on ovarian cancer.
Petrik is one of only two scientists to receive a highly competitive mid-career investigator salary award this year. The awards are for scientists who have made outstanding contributions, demonstrated leadership in their field and developed a reputation for excellence in research.
“I feel very fortunate to receive this award,” says Petrik. “It’s a great opportunity for us to refocus the work on ovarian cancer. The lab is expanding, and the funds will allow me to devote more resources and intellectual energy toward taking the research to the next level.”
His research team is investigating how anti-angiogenic therapies — targeting the blood vessels that feed the growth of tumours — can be used in combination with chemotherapy drugs to improve treatment of ovarian cancer.
“The goal is not only to make the treatments more effective and to improve outcomes for women, but also to improve their quality of life by reducing the use of chemotherapy drugs that have toxic side effects.”
Petrik’s lab is also supported by a CIHR operating grant, and his work on ovarian cancer with colleague Prof. Roger Moorehead was funded by the Ontario Cancer Research Network. In 2008, their team published research that identified a protein expressed by ovarian cancer cells that may help with early detection of the disease.
Petrik’s lab is also looking at possible links between elevated blood sugar and cancer and, more specifically, how women with hyperglycemia may be prone to developing a more aggressive form of ovarian cancer.
“All cells use glucose in the blood as a source of fuel, but cancer cells use more than healthy cells,” he says. “We want to take a closer look at the effects of hyperglycemic drugs and how we might use them to slow the growth of tumours, encourage regression and maybe even make them go away.”