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Improving cognitive recovery in childhood brain cancer survivors

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This Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, a new, cutting-edge research project funded by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is offering hope to children and families affected by childhood brain cancer.

Children and teens who survive medulloblastoma, a brain tumour that is most commonly diagnosed in children, are often faced with long-term cognitive challenges. While successful, the aggressive treatments they receive can damage growing brains and lead to life-long difficulties that impact the person’s ability to do well in school, get a job and live independently, creating stress and anxiety for them and their families.

With the support of a CCS-CIHR Cancer Survivorship Team Grant, Dr Donald Mabbott and his team are conducting a national clinical trial to test whether a common diabetes drug can boost cognitive function in childhood brain cancer survivors. Metformin is an approved diabetes drug that has the potential to boost brain growth and recovery and has shown promising results in a pilot study.

“The broad impact of research allows me to try and help many more children and families,” says Dr Mabbott. “My hope is that we find ways to treat and cure the late effects of childhood cancer in the same way we treat and cure primary disease.”

If this strategy is successful, it would offer an opportunity to prevent and reduce treatment-associated brain injury and cognitive impairment in childhood brain cancer survivors, helping them and their families have a better quality of life.

Dr Mabbott’s $2.3 million, 5-year grant is one of 6 recently announced CCS-CIHR Cancer Survivorship Team Grants, funded in partnership with the Alberta Cancer Foundation. These grants represent the largest, first-of-its kind cancer survivorship research initiative in Canada. The projects tackle important questions on how to prevent, lessen and manage the physical, psychological and psychosocial effects of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, helping people with cancer live longer, fuller and healthier lives.

CCS funds research like Dr Mabbott’s to help change the future of children facing cancer by supporting research to find new ways to detect, diagnose and treat childhood cancers, as well as reduce the long-term side effects faced by survivors as a result of their treatment.

You can help CCS create lasting change in the health of young cancer patients by giving the gift of Childhood Cancer Research.