A new way of treating cancer discovered here in Ottawa is being celebrated as having the potential to transform cancer treatment.
It's a combined therapy using two experimental drug treatments together, both of which were also discovered by local researchers and are in the process of undergoing clinical trials and experimental treatment.
CHEO researcher Dr. Robert Korneluk says one therapy boosts the patients natural immune system response and the second targets cancer genes themselves and stops them being bullet proof.
"We know that the drugs work because of factors that are stimulated by the immune system, so, it's sort of, we pull the plug at that one end and we give a push with the immune system to kill the cancer cells," he said, adding it's effectively using the body's natural resources to fight the disease.
The reason it works so much better when the drugs are combined is the defences of the cancer cells are down, leaving them more susceptable to our natural ability to fight illness.
The drugs are not toxic so they don't have the damaging effects that radiation and chemotherapy have on a patient.
"So, for children, that's particularly important because survivors of childhood cancer are still faced with issues throughout their life, perhaps even succumbing to secondary cancers later because of the chemotherapies and so on that are being used," said Korneluk.
He said researchers are very hopeful these will be safe therapies that can be pushed along through the clinical trial phase and eventually become the standard of care.
So far, the only side effects appear to be flu-like symptoms like fever, aches and chills which, while Korneluk said they may be unpleasant, are not long term problems.
First published Monday, January 27