By Sharon Gray
Peter Campbell is a doctoral student in epidemiology working
with the Colorectal Cancer Interdisciplinary Research Team.
This interdisciplinary multi-site project is looking at
colon cancer in Newfoundland and Ontario from many perspectives:
Mr. Campbell’s particular interest is the role of
hormones in colon cancer, primarily among women who are
genetically predisposed to this type of cancer.
“Not all women who inherit the gene for colon cancer
get it, and I’m trying to figure out why some women
do and some don’t,” explained Mr. Campbell,
who is a student at the University of Toronto under the
supervision of Dr. John McLaughlin. He recently spent a
month at Memorial working with molecular geneticist Dr.
Ban Younghusband, co-principal investigator of the Colon
Cancer Project at Memorial, and postdoctoral fellow Dr.
Mr. Campbell said one of the likely reasons why some women
are protected against colon cancer is hormone replacement
therapy and oral contraceptive use. “In general we
know that colon cancer is less common in women than in men,
and that’s another reason for looking at the role
While working with Dr. Younghusband’s
group, Mr. Campbell looked at differences in genes that
create or break down estrogens among people known to carry
hereditary colon cancer genes. He said his work would not
be possible without the involvement of the Newfoundland
data. “The rate of colon cancer in this province is
the highest in the country, it is a unique population in
which to study hereditary cancers.”
Mr. Campbell is just one of many young researchers who are
gaining valuable experience through the work of the Colorectal
Cancer Interdisciplinary Research Team, which includes more
than 30 faculty members at Memorial and the University of
Toronto as well as graduate students and health professionals
in a wide range of disciplines.
Team members in both provinces are working together on six
projects examining the relative contribution of genetic
and non-genetic factors in this type of cancer: The causes
of colorectal cancer, clinical outcomes, frequency and associated
illnesses, psychological impact, barriers to prevention,
and how genetic risk information is communicated and used.
The project is funded by a Canadian Institutes of Health
Research grant of $5 million over five years.