Cancer has been around since the dawn of history. Some of the earliest evidence of the disease is found among fossilized bone tumours, human mummies and ancient manuscripts. The first description of cancer – although it was not named that – was in Egypt, dating back to about 3000 BC. An early textbook on trauma surgery describes eight tumours or ulcers of the breast that were removed by cauterization with a tool called the “fire drill.” The description said simply: “There is no treatment.” And the causes were a mystery, but ancient Egyptians blamed cancers on the gods.
What a difference a few thousand years makes. Over the last few centuries, scientists began to develop greater understanding of the human body. The introduction of tools like the modern microscope allowed the study of the disease at a cellular level. By the middle of the 20th century, the discovery of the chemical structure of DNA allowed scientists to understand how genes work and how they could be
damaged by mutations.
Fast forward to the present. It has been well said that scientists have learned more about cancer in the last two decades than has been learned in all the centuries preceding. Scientists today are standing on the shoulders of everyone that has come before them, and while we still have much to learn, we’ve come a long way.
At the Alberta Cancer Foundation, we haven’t been around as long as early Egyptians, but with the celebration of our 30th anniversary, we have been instrumental to many improvements in cancer research, treatment and care in Alberta. In this issue of Leap you’ll read about some of those advancements and hear from patients who have experienced first-hand how much their lives have improved because of them.
The Alberta Cancer Foundation has played a role in improving Alberta’s cancer survival rates significantly every year over the last few decades – and we will make sure those numbers continue to rise. While we celebrate the years of research that have brought us to this point, where more than 100,000 Albertans are alive today after a cancer diagnosis, the work we do today is crucial to bringing us the next advancements that will save even more lives.
We believe Alberta’s cancer program can be among the best in the world and with our donors’ continued support, we can make that happen. We are investing in innovative solutions that are vital to translating research into life-saving therapies. We are thinking outside of the box to find those big, transformative ideas to make sure something good comes out of our donors’ investments. We push discoveries forward through strategic investments in cancer research that deliver clear results to patients. Now, more than ever, is the time to be bold and do something about cancer. So while we are celebrating our 30th anniversary, we know we are on the brink of bigger and better things that will improve the lives of Albertans facing cancer. Stay tuned.
Myka Osinchuk, CEO
Alberta Cancer Foundation
Angela Boehm, Chair
Alberta Cancer Foundation