Besides saving millions of lives, the process of bone marrow transplant has provided invaluable new insights on how to fight cancer, according to a top researcher who will speak in Windsor Thursday night.
“Bone marrow transplant has probably been the most important progress in cancer treatment in the last 50 years,” said Claude Perreault, a professor in medicine at the Université de Montréal and principal investigator of the Immunobiology Research Unit at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer.
More than a million people have been treated with BMT, said Dr. Perreault, who will deliver free public lecture on the subject at the Caboto Club. Every year in Canada, he said, there are about 16,000 new cases of such cancers as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma reported.
“About half of them can’t be cured with chemotherapy, but these are precisely the types of cancer that can be cured by BMT,” he said.
The treatment, he said, has taught researchers some crucial lessons.
“This was the first treatment to use stem cells,” said Perreault, who is testing a state-of-the-art immunotherapy approach, which has already shown to be effective in mice, to target specific proteins in patients for the treatment of chemotherapy-resistant blood cancers.
“This provided us with the first evidence that a limited number of cells can totally reconstitute the hematopoietic system, where blood cells are produced,” he said. “We have also learned that a healthy immune system can help cure cancer because we know that t-lymphocytes, the cells that govern the functioning of the immune system and help reject cancer, can actually recognize certain molecules within those cancer cells.”
A fellow in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences who has been honoured by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada, Perreault is being brought to Windsor by the newly formed Windsor Cancer Research Group – which includes more than a dozen UWindsor cancer researchers – and the Katelyn Bedard Bone Marrow Association, a local charity which advocates for increased participation in bone marrow donor registries.
He will deliver his lecture in the Marconi Room at the Caboto Club at 7 p.m. on April 4. He will deliver a more academic lecture geared for scientists called The immunopeptidome of cancer cells at 3 p.m. on April 5 in Room 122 of the Biology building. All are welcome.