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Research Highlight | April 20, 2011

Ottawa resident receives excellent prognosis after study detects early lung cancer

Debi Lascelle during a recent vacation  
OTTAWA-- Ottawa resident Debi Lascelle believes she saved her life by participating in The Terry Fox Research Institute's Pan Canadian Early Lung Cancer Detection Study being conducted at The Ottawa Hospital.

Diagnosed in December 2010 with the most common form of lung cancer - adenocarcinoma --she had no symptoms when a 13-millimetre tumour was found on her right lung. Fortunately, it was discovered early and the tumour was small. She underwent a lobectomy on her right lung. Her prognosis is excellent.

The 54-year-old provincial court reporter and former smoker is sharing her story so others know the importance of early detection, particularly for lung cancer. "It could have been so much worse. I am so incredibly grateful; it is just amazing that it was caught so early,'" she says.

"Debi's case illustrates the importance of early detection of lung cancer. When detected at their earliest stages, lung tumours can be removed with a high likelihood of cure. Today most people with lung cancer are diagnosed with more advanced disease that can be slowed or controlled for a time, but never cured," says her doctor and oncologist Dr. Garth Nicholas of The Ottawa Hospital's Ages Cancer Assessment Clinic. He is a co-investigator with the pan-Canadian study. "Through the efforts of Debi and 2,500 other study volunteers like her, we hope to find a way to make early detection a common event, and thereby to reduce the burden of this terrible disease in Canada and around the world."

The Ottawa site study got under way almost two years ago and has now reached its recruitment goal. Those enrolled will be followed over the next two years of the study. The study used a novel lung cancer prediction tool to identify smokers at high risk of lung cancer.

Lascelle is grateful to the study funders - The Terry Fox Research Institute and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer - for funding research into a form of cancer that today still carries a huge social stigma and leaves very few survivors. Since Debi's cancer diagnosis, her doctor has confirmed seven other cases of lung cancer.

She and her husband John are now planning a trip to Arizona to celebrate his retirement two years ago from the Royal Canadian Mint, and their 20th wedding anniversary in August 2011. Debi is looking forward to resuming yoga and has found no difference in her lung capacity.

Debi's father died of lung cancer and she watched a friend lose her life to the disease. She wants people to know that early detection is important. "It's fantastic and I want to share it with others."

Eight sites across Canada are participating in the study, which will receive more than $7 million over five years from the Terry Fox Research Institute and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. A preliminary analysis of the pan-Canadian study is expected later this year.

Every year, approximately 24,000 Canadians are diagnosed with lung cancer. It kills more people than breast, colorectal or prostate cancer combined.

About The Terry Fox Research Institute
Launched in October 2007, The Terry Fox Research Institute is the brainchild of The Terry Fox Foundation. TFRI seeks to improve significantly the outcomes of cancer research for the patient through a highly collaborative, team-oriented, milestone-based approach to research that will enable discoveries to translate quickly into practical solutions for cancer patients worldwide. TFRI collaborates with over 50 cancer hospitals and research organizations across Canada. TFRI headquarters are in Vancouver, BC.

About The Ottawa Hospital
One of Canada's largest teaching and research hospitals, The Ottawa Hospital is a bilingual multi-campus, health sciences centre, serving the 1.2 million residents of Ottawa and Eastern Ontario. With 1,240 beds and an annual budget close to $1 Billion, The Ottawa Hospital provides care for more patients than any other hospital in Canada. To meet the high demand for its services, it relies on a dedicated and compassionate team of 12,000 employees, 1,250 physicians and more than 2,000 volunteers.

The Ottawa Hospital is renowned for its leadership in patient care, research, education and for its investment in state-of-the-art facilities and technology. Working together with the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, the University of Ottawa, and other partners, TOH is gaining national and international recognition for high quality patient care, teaching and research.

For more information contact:

Kelly Curwin
Chief Communications Officer
Terry Fox Research Institute
604-675-8223; c: 778-237-8158
Hazel Harding
Communications Advisor
The Ottawa Hospital
Tel.: 613-737-8460