Clinical study: Single blood test from U Calgary could offer rapid breast cancer diagnosis

Friday, 15 March, 2019

Hope the two year clinical study will prove to be successful, time will tell. Good luck and best wishes to Dr. Kristina (Tina) Rinker and her Early Cancer Detection Initiative team!  #fuckCancer

2019 March 14th, CBC News, “Calgary-made blood test aims to improve breast cancer detection – Clinical study now underway at University of Calgary on test that could reduce wait times, patient stress

//The clinical study, which began in May 2018, will involve more than 800 women from Calgary and Edmonton, and roughly 600 women in Manchester, U.K.

Participants are given a simple blood test along with their regular mammogram.

“The earlier you can identify the breast cancer at a point that it’s treatable, the better the outcomes,” said Kristina Rinker, associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Calgary.

According to Rinker, a computer algorithm allows scientists to identify a molecular marker for active breast cancer in the blood at an early stage. She says 800 samples — already collected — show the test has an accuracy rate of about 90 per cent.

“Finding it early, finding it at stage one, getting the treatment as fast as possible, that’s going to save lives,” she said.

Rinker hopes the blood test will eventually be used along with mammography to help identify cancer in women who have dense breast tissue — which makes cancer more difficult to detect — or those who have inconclusive mammogram results.//

Further reading, U of Calgary, 14 March, 2019 “Single blood test could offer rapid breast cancer diagnosis – Two-year clinical program seeking participants for study” which has a link to the ‘Identification of Breast Cancer from a Blood Sample (IDBC)’ study for “Women interested in participating in the IDBC clinical program can find more information” which has additional links for people to read through the IDBC Consent Form, IDBC Questionnaire or IDBC Brochure.

P.S. Here is a UC link to Dr. Rinker’s peer-reviewed article. and her profile at the Creative Destruction Lab.

Queen’s University PhD student Caitlin Miron makes groundbreaking discovery that may prevent spread of cancer (with brief technical details)

Tuesday, 21 November, 2017
20171121 CTV News interview of Caitlin Miron

Caitlin Miron, a PhD student in the chemistry department at Queen’s University, interviewed on CTV News. Image credit: CTV News, image composite from screen captures.

Congrats to Ms. Caitlin Miron, Ph.D. Candidate, Queen’s University for making a groundbreaking discovery that may have the potential to prevent cancer cells from spreading. Have a watch and read of the CTV news report, “(with video) PhD student makes groundbreaking discovery that may prevent spread of cancer“. According to Miron’s interview with CTV news, “85% of cancers” may benefit from this discovery and while it is too early to talk about the time frame of a commercially available drug, about 5-8 years was mentioned.

Here is an excerpt (with emphasis and links added) from the CTV report,

Studying at the European Institute of Chemistry and Biology in Bordeaux, France, Miron was able to use advanced screening technology to examine a number of compounds from the Petitjean lab at Queen’s University. During her internship, she was able to discover one compound that binds well to four-stranded DNA structure, or guanine quadruplex [G4], which has been linked to the development of cancer and other diseases.

She explained her discovery by comparing a single-stranded DNA to a necklace with beads that move along it until they hit a knot. The beads are the cell machinery that move along the necklace processing the DNA, she said.

“You can go in and untangle that knot, but in this case someone has gone in there first and they’ve used superglue to hold it together,” Miron said. “What we’ve discovered in that case is that glue.”

By binding the newly discovered compound or “superglue” to the quadruplex to secure the “knot” in the chain, scientists may be able to prevent the cell machinery from reaching a particular section of DNA to process it, which would, in turn, prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells, Miron said.

Scientists have been researching quadruplex binders as a possible treatment for cancer for approximately 20 to 30 years, the PhD student explained. However, many of the known binders haven’t yielded results as promising as the one Miron has identified.

“It’s really exciting. It’s exciting to be on the forefront of this field,” she said. “There are other quadruplex binders out there, but what we’re seeing is that ours is very high-performing.”

P.S. Here are some additional references.

Ref 1: Miron is scheduled to have an upcoming Queen’s University Grad Chat “November 28th, 2017 – Caitlin Miron (Chemistry)” that I’m very much looking forward to listen to.

Ref 2: Here is an excerpt from Queen’s University 2017, November 21st, “Caitlin Miron – Recipient of the 2017 Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation (PhD)“, (emphasis and links added)

Caitlin Miron is the recipient of the 2017 Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation. This award is given to a PhD student who has made a significant achievement in research and development innovation during Mitacs-funded research. Last year, Caitlin received a Mitacs Globalink Research Award which funded a collaboration with Dr. Jean-Louis Mergny at the Institut Européen de Chimie et Biologue in Bordeaux, France. This collaboration was the second of two with Dr. Jean-Louis Mergny, and collectively, these collaborations have not only propelled Caitlin’s PhD thesis forward but also merited the receipt of the Mitacs Outstanding Innovation award. […]

 Caitlin’s doctoral dissertation is titled: Dynamic recognition of unusual nucleic acid architectures by cation-responsive switches and other metallo-organic platforms. In sum, DNA has been found to adopt unusual architectures. One type of architecture, called a guanine quadruplex, has been shown to form in the promoter regions of oncogenes (cancer genes), and is implicated in cancer. Caitlin’s research involves finding molecules that stabilize quadruplexes, thereby blocking the expression of these oncogenes, in the hopes that these molecules can be used as anticancer therapeutic agents, either alone or in combination with other treatments. In her first internship in Dr. Mergny’s lab, Caitlin tested a library of potential binders originating from the Petitjean lab and identified a compound that shows some of the best stabilization of quadruplexes that has been seen over the past 30 years. During her second internship (funded by the Mitacs Globalink program), Caitlin explored the effects that small modifications of the lead compound’s structure might have on guanine quadruplex recognition. By taking these compounds from expert to expert, she was able to identify suitable biophysical techniques that she has since brought back to her lab at Queen’s to further her research. Since then, preliminary results suggest that these compounds inhibit cell growth in several human cancer cell lines, and earlier this month, a patent was filed on the novel compounds Caitlin first investigated in France. These results serve as but a case example of rewards made possible by the financial support of funding agencies such as Mitacs.

When I asked Caitlin what skills have helped her during her PhD, she listed good communication, time management and perseverance. “Research doesn’t always go smoothly, so you need to be able to sit back and figure out how to fix things.” Caitlin also recommends ensuring you select a supervisor that will support you throughout the process of graduate school, and pursing opportunities that meet your needs – for example, Caitlin didn’t focus on maximizing her opportunity to teach in the undergraduate course setting during her PhD because she knew she did not want to pursue an academic career. […]

As a final note, Caitlin recommends getting into labs with big names in their respective fields, if possible. Dr. Mergny is one of the top researchers in Caitlin’s field. For Caitlin, conducting research in Dr. Mergny’s lab and having access to experts has enabled her to develop a better understanding of her work and accelerate her research.

After completing her PhD, Caitlin is looking to complete an industrial post-doctoral research position in order to bridge her experience between academia and industry. Caitlin’s long-term goal is to pursue an industrial research career, one slanted towards health applications or perhaps the development of pharmaceuticals. Given Caitlin’s positive attitude and astounding success thus far, I have no doubt she will continue to make great contributions to health-care oriented research in the future.

Ref 3: From Dr. Jean-Louis Mergny’s IECB “Unusual nucleic acid structures” team page,

G-quadruplexes: Friends or foes?
Comparison of sequencing data with theoretical sequence distributions suggests that there is a selection against G-quadruplex prone sequences in the genome, probably as they pose real problems during replication or transcription and generate genomic instability (see below). Nevertheless, “G4-hot spots” have been found in certain regions of the genome: in telomeres, in repetitive sequences such as mini and microsatellite DNAs, in promoter regions, and in first exons of mRNAs. There might be a specific positive role for these sequences that compensates for the general selection against G4 forming sequences. Our goals are to understand the factors that modulate these effects. A number of proteins that interact with these unusual structures have been identified, including DNA binding proteins, helicases, and nucleases. We are currently developing a fluorescent-based assay to follow the activity of helicases in real time (Mendoza, Nucleic Acids Res. 2015).

G-quadruplex ligands: Treats or tricks?
One may achieve structure-specific rather than sequence-specific recognition of DNA. Because of their particular geometric configuration and electrostatic potential, G-quadruplexes may indeed specifically accommodate small artificial ligands, such as planar molecules, and an impressive number of candidates have been evaluated. Together with chemists we successfully identified a variety of G4 ligands and we wish to improve and functionalize these compounds, analyse their biological effects, and ultimately find new classes of anti-proliferative agents with anticancer properties.

Ref 4: Miron’s 2016 Mitacs project, “Building on an Innovative Platform: Tuning Guanine Quadruplex Recognition for Anticancer Applications

In a world full of Lance Armstrongs and Lance wannabe …

Saturday, 19 January, 2013
In a world full of Lance Armstrongs and Lance wannabe ...
In a world full of Lance Armstrongs and Lance wannabe where winning is everything, it is important to remember the true reason we compete in sports, paradoxically, is not JUST about winning. International sports competitions should be about building international friendship on a clean competing platform. (see note 2)

And sometimes, even during the toughest and highest competitions like the Olympics, there can be selfless acts! Here is one selfless act that I LOVE in 2006!

Norwegian coach Bjørnar Håkensmoen gave [Canadian] Sara Renner a ski pole after hers was broken when a competitor stepped on it during the cross-country team sprint at the 2006 Winter Olympics. Norway’s athlete ended up fourth, implying that this selfless act of sportsmanship may well have cost the Norwegian team a medal.[1] Renner gave Håkensmoen a bottle of wine as a thank you, while other Canadians responded with phone calls and letters to the Norwegian Embassy. Canadian businessman Michael Page donated 8,000 cans of Maple Syrup to the Norwegian Olympic Committee to show his gratitude.[2] The incident was immortalized in a 2010 Winter Olympics television commercial.[3]”

At the end of the day, winning must NOT be everything. Thank you Norway, thanks for helping us but more importantly, how to behave in a selfless manner. You guys rock! World class athletes don’t just set examples by how many medals they have or how many world records they’ve broken, the selfless-act by Norwegian coach Bjørnar Håkensmoen inspire us to rise up to be more, to be noble. Here is an ad capturing the essence.

Yesterday, on Reno KRNV News 4 Forum, I and others expressed some strong views about Lance’s actions. The discussion start at about 5:09 (click here to jump directly to the spot).

I will never want to leave someone without means to make a living and be destitute. But Lance has made enough money (I will leave the morality of how he made those money for you to judge) for him and his family to live comfortably for life, so I am safer to be blunt in saying I have enough of Lance and don’t want to see him compete ever again and him promoting/selling anything. I respect my friends who are deeply affected by his story of fight against and winning his battle with cancer. But for me, I know people with cancer who behaves totally honourably without needing to resort to and falling so low as to try to win at all cost.

Note 1: If you ask me, Lance’s latest strategically targeted & planned TV appearances is nothing other than an insincere attempt to win back our broken hearts. Yes, his battle against cancer, his great charitable work, his drugs-assisted wins, his bullying, and all his lies are paradoxically inspiring, hurtful and insulting all at once. And Lance has #fail to win me back.

Have a read of Forbes, “Lance Armstrong and Oprah: Destroying What Was Left of His Reputation

Note 2: Think of jousting, it was a sport that people from opposing groups “compete” in a manner that sometimes could result in deaths just to show who is “better” in the sport.

CBC Dragon Brett Wilson redefines Success and talks Mistakes in extensive video interview

Saturday, 24 November, 2012

Brett new book interview pix - 2012

Over the last four years since June 2008, I’ve the pleasure to interview Brett Wilson (businessman & philanthropist, “Dragon with a heart”) many (see my 2008 pre-Dragons’ Den interview videos) and many times. I also slowly get to know Brett from industry events (we’ve met at Banff World Media Festival quite a few times (see 2009 interview)) and from his annual charity garden parties (thx Brett for inviting me & my better half). I can honestly say the “up close & in person” Brett is pretty much the same nice & straight talking no non-sense guy that many viewers of CBC’s award-winning Dragons’ Den have come to know and love.

Earlier this afternoon, I had the pleasure to conduct an insightful, open and frank video interview with Brett to talk about his Globe & Mail best-selling book “Redefining Success: Still making mistakes“! I hope you enjoy my interview with Brett as much as I in conducting it. Please share this article & video. And comment too.

note: this article is cross-posted by me at

Brett & Kempton at 2010 Garden Party with book cover

Danny Hillis TED Talk old and new

Sunday, 5 February, 2012

Danny Hillis of Applied Minds (company) is a really cool and interesting inventor and entrepreneur. Danny was a really good friend of Feynman and worked with him. The following TED talks are quite interesting and insightful.

Danny Hillis: Back to the future (of 1994)

Danny Hillis: Understanding cancer through proteomics (2011) Hmmm, proteomics looks cool.

Rethink Breast Cancer presents: Your Man Reminder App

Thursday, 13 October, 2011

Rethink Breast Cancer presents: Your Man Reminder App. The free app that uses hot guys to remind you to check your breasts.

HT to my friend Michelle, Rethink Breast Cancer team member and artistic director of Breast Fest.

Intravenously-delivered viral therapy JX-594 consistently and selectively replicate in cancer tissue without harming normal tissues in humans

Thursday, 1 September, 2011

Dr. John Bell (Wikipedia) is a senior OHRI (Ottawa Hospital Research Institute) scientist and senior co-author of the publication in the journal Nature. Check out t a quicktime video of a three-dimensional reconstruction of part of a human colorectal tumour showing widespread infection with oncolytic vaccinia virus (green). Here is an excerpt from the OHRI press release (emphasis added),

“Researchers […] today reported promising results of a world-first cancer therapy trial in renowned journal Nature. The trial is the first to show that an intravenously-delivered viral therapy can consistently infect and spread within tumours without harming normal tissues in humans. It is also the first to show tumour-selective expression of a foreign gene after intravenous delivery.

The trial involved 23 patients (including seven at The Ottawa Hospital), all with advanced cancers that had spread to multiple organs and failed to respond to standard treatments. The patients received a single intravenous infusion of a virus called JX-594, at one of five dose levels, and biopsies were obtained eight to 10 days later. Seven of eight patients (87 per cent) in the two highest dose groups had evidence of viral replication in their tumour, but not in normal tissues. All of these patients also showed tumour-selective expression of a foreign gene that was engineered into the virus to help with detection. The virus was well tolerated at all dose levels, with the most common side effect being mild to moderate flu-like symptoms that lasted less than one day.

“We are very excited because this is the first time in medical history that a viral therapy has been shown to consistently and selectively replicate in cancer tissue after intravenous infusion in humans,” said Dr. John Bell, a Senior Scientist at OHRI, Professor of Medicine at uOttawa and senior co-author on the publication. “Intravenous delivery is crucial for cancer treatment because it allows us to target tumours throughout the body as opposed to just those that we can directly inject. The study is also important because it shows that we can use this approach to selectively express foreign genes in tumours, opening the door to a whole new suite of targeted cancer therapies.””

Media reports:

CBC, “Intravenous virus eyed as possible cancer treatment

CTV, “Groundbreaking Ottawa-based cancer trials show “promising” results

A tool that finds 3x more breast tumors, and why it’s not available to you

Tuesday, 11 January, 2011

A very insightful TEDWomen presentation from Deborah J. Rhodes, M.D. at Mayo Clinic, “A tool that finds 3x more breast tumors, and why it’s not available to you“.

Here is a link to the abstract of an article referenced by Dr. Rhodes in January 2011 Radiology, 258, 106-118 “Dedicated Dual-Head Gamma Imaging for Breast Cancer Screening in Women with Mammographically Dense Breasts” by Deborah J. Rhodes, MD, Carrie B. Hruska, PhD, Stephen W. Phillips, MD1, Dana H. Whaley, MD and Michael K. O’Connor, PhD

Virus can attack prostate cancer

Tuesday, 9 March, 2010

From CBC News, “Virus can attack prostate cancer” (with video),

Researchers in Alberta have successfully tested a new viral approach to treating prostate cancer in a small number of men.

The study was published in Tuesday’s online issue Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Dr. Don Morris, an oncologist at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary and his colleagues used a reovirus — a respiratory virus commonly found in the environment — to kill prostate cancer cells.

From “Abstract of reovirus/prostate cancer study”, Cancer Research

Canadian researchers show how a breast tumor evolves

Wednesday, 7 October, 2009

Having Cancer in Public – Get well soon Jeff !

Wednesday, 12 August, 2009

I admire and respect Jeff Jarvis for his journalistic and new media insight. And now I admire him for living his prostate cancer in the public.

My best wishes and get well soon Jeff.

Breast Cancer in the Open

Thursday, 18 June, 2009

My thoughts and best wishes are with the Mickelsons. “Wife’s battle with breast cancer will be inspiration for Mickelson at U.S. Open“.

I hope to see the battle with breast cancer (and all forms of cancer) be won in my life time. Breast self-exam info from NIH.

W. Brett Wilson on “Experiences From a Survivor” – Prostaid Calgary

Monday, 6 October, 2008

It may seem simple but we have to take care of ourselves (including our health) before we can enjoy the fruits of our labour.

So I truly appreciate Brett sharing his personal experience at Prostaid Calgary in his “Experiences From a Survivor” presentation (Google video).

Now, for the female entrepreneurs out there, I participated in the 2008 CIBC Run for the Cure yesterday and I’ve included some important information about breast cancer in my CIBC Run entry there.

I think there are some truth in saying “health before money”, so let me wish you the best of health.

2008 CIBC Run for the Cure in Calgary

Sunday, 5 October, 2008

One day, I am certain we will find a cure for breast cancer. Until a cure is found, I plan to join and be part of the Run for the Cure event every year.

Looks like the weather will be a bit cool but at least it is not raining. I hope it will be nice like the 2007 run. Here are some photos from the run last year.


We had wonderful weather for yesterday’s 2008 run/walk for the cure. Here are some photos showing some of the great supports we had on the streets of Calgary

I usually try to add some links to latest breast cancer research if I can. This year, I will link to the breast cancer page at the US government National Cancer Institute. I am not a doctor but I will consider NCI to be a good source of information. On the internet, there are simply too many personal or commercial sites that pretend to be expert and won’t hesitate to give out seemingly authoritative information about cancer (and breast cancer), therefore readers seeking good information needs to be very critical of what they read and trust.

For example, while I whole hearted wish this story, “Vaccine for breast cancer within reach, says expert – Breast cancer vaccine may be within reach“, is true as it is being reported by UK Guardian, a reputable newspaper that I trust, and the researcher is from Oxford University, I don’t have the needed medical judgment to decide how much I can rely on the claim. On this note, I think Mayo Clinic’s breast cancer page is another good source of information that is worth considering.


Ladies, here is Cancer Research UK‘s Cancer Awareness Guy (YouTube video). Enjoy.

(Note that I am shameless and will include anything (e.g. yummy man) to get you to check your breasts.)

Links: 2008-04-18

Friday, 18 April, 2008
  1. Chinese ship carries arms cargo to Mugabe regime – this is just terrible
  2. Hedge fund managers reap billions amid slump
  3. Starving Cancer – with video
  4. NAB snapshot: “Flying-Cam”
  5. RED Scarlet 3K camcorder, James Cameron on the future of digital cinema
  6. Guardian: The value of Jeff Jarvis’ blog

Links: 2008-02-10 – Delete your Facebook, Fate of Penny, Isaac, Cancer, AIDS

Sunday, 10 February, 2008
  1. Hitting the Delete key on social networking site like Facebook – not as easy as you like
  2. A Penny for Your Thoughts? What an Insult! – More on 60 minutes this Sunday Feb 10th (unless the show gets preempted by something else)
  3. Thank Goodness for Isaac
  4. Cancer Control – Why Do Some Tumors Spread?
  5. Disarming AIDS – nasty but needy
  6. Closed Networks & The Problem with Facebook

When Politicians go Nuclear Active

Monday, 17 December, 2007

In hindsight, the world (including Canada) should probably rethink the idea of having most of the world’s supply of Medical Isotopes to be produced at one location (even it is in Canada).

At the same time, it deeply troubles me that politicians (from all parties?) went ahead and overruled decision to shutdown the Chalk River, Ont., nuclear reactor. You see, records are kept as part of a checks-and-balances reporting system to ensure things are done correctly and as planned. When important nuclear records are not kept well, and these problems were discounted as “paperworks”, these actions worried me.

Now, I hope everyone at Chalk River will be ultra careful in the next while and follow all the carefully established checks and balances system (aka “paperworks”) established to ensure safety.

A friend of mine was part of the software team that developed software for the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. And years ago, we chatted about the extend and thoughts that went into ensuring the safe operations of Darlington. So I don’t think I can ever view nuclear power plants “paperworks” so lightly (or carelessly?) as these federal politicians.

I hope the politicians that passed the emergency bill took a calculated risk in forcing the reopening of Chalk River. After all, the mistakes of operating Chalk river unsafely will be paid by the health or even lives (in the extreme case) of the workers and safety crew at the plant.

Since I am not a nuclear scientist, I can only hope. But last I checked, none of the major political parties’ leaders are nuclear scientists by training either.

2007 Run for the Cure in Calgary

Thursday, 4 October, 2007

6th Oct, 2008 Update: Here is my 2008 Run for the Cure blog entry.


There was a great turn out for the 2007 Calgary CIBC Run for the Cure by Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. You can check out some additional photos here where you will see local residents decorated their houses & lawns with beautiful signs of support. And some even provide their washrooms to the public.

This year, I have shot some videos that day to give you a sense of what it was like and hope you will want to participate next year in the local run in your city.

Video of the start of the Run for the Cure in Calgary

Video of cute dog running

Video of cheerleaders cheering (clip 1)

Video of cheerleaders cheering (clip 2)

Video of bagpipe music

Video guitar music and singing (and balloon fights)

Chat with Werner Walcher – Director of “River of Life” – 2007 CIFF series

Monday, 17 September, 2007

As a documentary filmmaker, I had an insightful chat/interview with Werner Walcher, director of the documentary “River of Life“, a film to be screened at the 2007 Calgary International Film Festival. Werner and I talked about how he convinced the eight breast cancer survivors to participate and open up for the film, how the racers dealt with the harsh racing conditions (740km of rugged river shoreline), the time span in making the documentary, the cost, and many other interesting topics.

You can listen to my interview with Werner in mp3, or you can stream or download the interview here.

Screening info: Sat, Sept 22, 1:00pm Uptown Upstairs (please click this link to confirm the latest info). Note: Werner plans to attend the screening.

Brain Cell Imaging Tool and Cancer Scanner

Sunday, 22 July, 2007

Here is an excerpt from “Science Tools: Brain Cell Imaging” (with video, very interesting tool and good insightful article),

The brain of a mammal is one of the most complex things in the universe. But studying brains has become easier thanks to some complicated, hi-tech equipment.

In this ScienCentral Web Extra video we take a visit to the Tonegawa Lab at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. to see their two-photon microscope and electrophysiology lab.

Here is an excerpt from “Cancer Scanner” (with video, potentially a big positive step for patient care),

Surgically sampling part of a tumor won’t just tell you if it’s cancerous. Thanks to the sequencing of the human genome and the advent of DNA microarrays that can reveal which genes are turned on and off in health and disease states, a biopsy may help doctors predict your outcome or suggest the best treatment.

But University of California, San Diego radiologist Michael Kuo wants to get just as much detail noninvasively, using a routine imaging scan instead.

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