Signals Blog

I’ve been thinking a lot about cancer lately: the mother of a good friend of mine is in the last stages of a terminal battle with pancreatic cancer and my godfather, a man with whom I share fond memories of practical jokes and summer farm vacations, was recently diagnosed with inoperable stomach cancer. I’m also reading The Philadelphia Chromosome by Jessica Wapner, which chronicles the initial discovery of a genetic link to chronic myeloid leukemia, a cousin of the version my brother survived as a child. Cancer touches us in so many ways.

Needless to say, I welcomed the news this week of a potential new target for colorectal cancer. The work, led by Drs John Dick and Catherine O’Brien at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, details an approach that targets the cancer stem cells’ ability to self-renew and regrow a tumour post-treatment. I won’t attempt to describe it any more than that, because John Dick does a good job of untangling this research on his own. Have a look:

Research cited:
Kreso A., van Galen P., Pedley N.M., Lima-Fernandes E., Frelin C., Davis T., Cao L., Baiazitov R., Du W. & Sydorenko N. & (2013). Self-renewal as a therapeutic target in human colorectal cancer, Nature Medicine, DOI:

Our regular feature, Right Turn, showcases the “lighter” side of stem cells and regenerative medicine. Every Friday, we will bring you cartoons, photos, videos and other content that may be just as thought provoking as the written submissions that you are used to finding here, but they definitely won’t be blogs.

As always, we welcome your feedback and we also welcome suitable submissions. Be creative! Use the right (!) side of your brain. Make us laugh! Let’s see if we can make this new direction a positive one for all of us. Send your submission to info(at)

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Lisa Willemse

Lisa Willemse

Lisa is a science communicator with 15+ years' experience in the fields of regenerative medicine, child development and technology. She launched this blog (first as the Stem Cell Network Blog) in 2009, and served as co-editor until April 2015. She is currently the Senior Communications Advisor for the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine and has recently contributed to Motherboard, Science Borealis and the Genome Alberta and Canadian Blood Services blogs. Follow her on Twitter and Medium @WillemseLA.