Preventing problems after cancer

April 12, 2012 By Raquel Maurier
(from left) U of A medical researchers Lesley Mitchell and Maury Pinsk with Lisa McDermott, whose daughter went through cancer treatment and had blood-clot complications

Medical researchers at the University of Alberta are part of a national team that has one common vision—to prevent long-term complications from childhood cancer treatment.

The researchers will initially test blood samples of those who survived childhood to see which genetic biomarkers made the survivors more susceptible to developing common post-cancer complications, such as , hearing loss, kidney failure or bone marrow transplant rejection. In the fifth and final year of funding of the $4.3-million grant, researchers will start a pilot study in which deemed to be at risk of these complications will be given medications to prevent the noted health problems. Ultimately, the researchers hope to screen all children with cancer before their treatment starts, in hopes of preventing the complications in the first place.

Each team across the country is recruiting patients for each arm of the study. And each site has a principal investigator who is the national lead in charge of one specific aspect of the research. In Edmonton, principal investigator Lesley Mitchell is in charge of the research arm zeroing in on blood clots. She is a researcher and an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and an adjunct associate professor with the School of Public Health. She notes that children who have had cancer are one of the largest groups of children to suffer from blood clots, a side-effect of the cancer and the treatment.

“Twenty to 30 years ago children didn’t survive cancer,” says Mitchell, who has spent more than 20 years researching the issue of blood clots in children who have this disease. “Thanks to advances in pediatric medicine and research, children are surviving cancer, but they are living with long-term complications of treatment for the disease. We want to help these children and prevent these complications from happening in the first place.”

The video will load shortly
Lesley Mitchell and Maury Pinsk describe their research

Some children who suffer from blood clots can have symptoms such as swelling or passing out. Others don’t exhibit any symptoms at all, such as one child whose multiple veins to his heart had been completely blocked by blood clots, so the body created numerous additional veins to the heart to keep blood flowing. But the problem, says Mitchell, is that these newly created veins don’t work as well as the original ones. Blood clots can lead to complications later in life such as being at risk for developing multiple clots and rupturing of the newly created veins.

Pediatric oncologist Maria Spavor, an Edmonton co-investigator and assistant clinical professor with the Department of Pediatrics, will be involved in enrolling child and adult patients for all arms of the study through her role as medical director of the Kids With Cancer Society Survivor Program, a multidisciplinary Edmonton clinic that follows survivors of . The clinic provides lifelong screening and support for survivors, assisting them with the long-term medical and psychosocial complications of cancer treatment.

"Late complications of cancer treatment are a reality for so many survivors of childhood cancer,” says Spavor. “Our hope is that we will reduce the significant impact these cause in their lives, ultimately giving every survivor the quality of life they so deserve."

Maury Pinsk, another Edmonton co-investigator, is based in pediatric nephrology and is an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics. He will lead the kidney-failure part of the study in Edmonton.

“Kidney injury from the medicines used to treat cancer is not well recognized in pediatric cancer unless children end up with complete kidney failure on dialysis,” he says.

The $4.3-million grant was jointly funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the C17 Research Network in Edmonton, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario.

Overall, CIHR and other funding organizations have invested $12 million to support the work of four different research teams across Canada.

Explore further: Childhood cancer survivors at higher risk for future GI complications

Related Stories

Childhood cancer survivors at higher risk for future GI complications

May 20, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Individuals who are treated for cancer during childhood have a significantly higher risk of developing gastrointestinal (GI) complications — from mild to severe — later in life, according to ...

Preventive use of blood thinners by cancer patients could save lives, cut costs

December 13, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Preventive use of blood thinners, or anticoagulants, in  people receiving outpatient treatment for cancer could prevent the development of blood clots and improve their quality of life, according ...

Kids born with HIV growing up well

April 21, 2011
(PhysOrg.com) -- Once facing an almost certain death sentence, most children born with HIV are now faring well into adolescence and adulthood, according to a newly published study co-authored by Tulane infectious diseases ...

Most cancer-related blood clots occur in outpatients

December 13, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- In a study of nearly 18,000 cancer patients, University of Rochester Medical Center researchers found that when blood clots develop – a well-known and serious complication of cancer treatment – ...

Childhood cancer survivors in poor health at greater risk for unemployment in adulthood

August 15, 2011
Childhood cancer survivors with poor physical health and neurocognitive deficits are more likely to be unemployed or work part-time in adulthood, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, ...

Recommended for you

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

Novel CRISPR-Cas9 screening enables discovery of new targets to aid cancer immunotherapy

July 19, 2017
A novel screening method developed by a team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center—using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology to test the function of thousands of tumor genes in mice—has ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.