Innovative Guelph researcher tackles treatment challenges for colon cancer with new Canadian Cancer Society funding

GUELPH, Ontario, February 29, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - Dr Brenda Coomber, a Guelph researcher investigating an innovative way to improve treatment for colon cancer, is one of 10 Ontario-based scientists receiving new funding, the Canadian Cancer Society announced today.

"This funding helps us work towards solving a problem for cancer patients in an unconventional way," says Dr Coomber, who is leading the project at the University of Guelph.

The drug Avastin works by starving cancer cells of their blood supply, but unfortunately the therapy doesn't work for everyone and there is no way of telling which patients will benefit.

Dr Coomber and her team have proposed a way to tackle this problem and will be using the new funding to study how to identify which patients will respond and how to make the drug more effective. This is important because it may lead to more patients surviving colon cancer.

Being able to identify the patients who would benefit from this drug while improving a tumour's sensitivity to Avastin through Dr Coomber's innovative approach landed her top scores in the Society's first Innovation Grants competition.

An estimated 3,250 Ontarians died of colorectal cancer in 2011 and 8,100 were diagnosed with the disease. Colon cancer is the second biggest cancer killer of Canadians.

"We are funding unique and creative research projects to stimulate new approaches in cancer research, the kind that have the potential to turn cancer on its head," says Lorraine Skarratt, manager of the Society's Wellington County Unit. "In this way and with the support of our donors and volunteers, we lead the way in the fight against cancer."

The Society's new Innovation Grants were developed to support innovative and creative problem-solving in cancer research. The goal is to support unconventional concepts, approaches or methodologies to address problems in cancer research.

Dr Coomber is receiving nearly $200,000 over two years for this project. Including this new grant, she has received more than $1.1 million in funding from the Canadian Cancer Society since 2000. In total, researchers at the University of Guelph have been awarded more than $1.5 million since 2008.

A total of 23 grants representing a $4.5 million investment were announced today across the country. For more information about the Society's research funding, visit

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit their website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.