Cancer Society Honours OVC Prof

November 01, 2007 - News Release

A University of Guelph biomedical scientist working to better understand the progression of colon cancer has been named the November "Researcher of the Month" by the Ontario division of the Canadian Cancer Society.

Brenda Coomber's research aims to provide new information about the biology of colorectal cancer and may suggest new therapies to delay its progression. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in Canada. It generally begins with harmless intestinal growths but can gradually progress to cancer as the cells experience various genetic changes.

With funding from the Canadian Cancer Society, Coomber is looking for ways to stop these changes. Her research team, led by research associate Siranoush Shahrzad, is investigating the genetic alterations to the K-ras gene. This gene functions like a switch, transmitting normal growth-promoting signals from a cell’s surface toward the nucleus.

When the K-ras gene becomes altered, however, it’s one of the most common mutations leading to aggressive and continuous tumour growth. “Once those alterations start, it’s like turning on a light switch that you can’t turn off,” Coomber says.

She and her research team are analyzing factors that may lead to K-ras gene changes, like the lack of blood flow and low levels of oxygen and nutrients within solid tumors. They're also evaluating the effect of certain anticancer treatments on the likelihood of K-ras genes undergoing changes, to better predict how some colorectal cancers will respond to treatment.

Coomber is also co-director of the U of G's Institute for Comparative Cancer Investigation. The first of its kind in Canada, the institute is dedicated to providing comprehensive cancer care for companion animals and unlocking the deadly secrets of the disease for the benefit of all species, including humans.

Prof. Brenda Coomber
Department of Biomedical Sciences
519 824-4120, Ext. 54922

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, 519-824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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