July 7, 2014 7:51 pm
Updated: July 7, 2014 8:57 pm

Man uses personal loss as motivation for medical research

WATCH ABOVE:  A local man has become a researcher to help find a cure for the rare cancer that took his wife’s life. Su-Ling Goh has his story.

EDMONTON – A geographer turned cancer researcher hopes to find a cure for a rare form of ovarian cancer that took his wife’s life in 2009.

Powel Crosley, 60, is currently researching treatments for granulosa cell tumour, a rare tumour affecting only five per cent of all women with ovarian cancer.

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Crosley has recently been awarded $50,000 from the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute, but what’s more remarkable is how he got there.

Originally a geographer, Crosley became involved with GTC after his wife Sladjana was diagnosed with the rare cancer in 1996. After the diagnosis, she became frustrated with the lack of information and support for the disease and began a foundation for GTC in 2004. Initially, the foundation was an information resource for patients, but quickly began to fund research in hopes of finding more specific treatments.

After a 10-year journey spent travelling the globe in search for positive results, Sladjana passed away of the disease in 2009.

“When my wife died and I was deciding what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I decided I for sure wanted to keep the foundation going and keep raising money for research.”

But with no scientific understanding of GTC, Crosley did what he thought made the most sense.

In 2010, he packed up his life in New Zealand and, at 60 years old, decided to take on the role of student at the University of Alberta.

Beginning with basic science courses, Crosley quickly became interested in the science behind cancer and cancer research.  In 2011, Crosley enrolled in an introductory oncology course with Dr. Mary Hitt which then became the jumping off point for his own feats in cancer research.

“[Dr. Hitt] had a therapy that, in my opinion, had use for GTC. I approached her about being able to test it.

“I didn’t realize she intended that I would actually be doing the testing.”

Starting with the basics of cancer research, Crosley has constantly expanded his knowledge, hoping to find successful treatment options for GTC. Recently, Crosley has come across two molecule drugs from Illinois and Australia that have shown good results in the preliminary phases. This discovery is what Crosley believes led to the $50,000 grant, the first grant that Crosley has applied for, let alone received.

“I had been very doubtful that we would get it because grants these days are a very, very competitive area. Basically you’ve got someone with no established background coming at you to do something.”

Even without the established background, Crosley stood out from the competition and got the go-ahead to continue with his research.

“When I sent an email to everybody, I said I was chuffed, which is a New Zealand expression for extremely pleased. If nothing else, I know what I’ll be doing for the next two years.”

With this funding, Crosley will continue his preliminary research, attempting to overcome the difficulties that arise when focusing on such a rare form of cancer. There are only a small number of tissue samples that can be used for research. While the Alberta Tumor Bank contains nearly 4,000 samples of breast cancer, it only has 11 GTC samples.

Anyone with GTC who would like to donate a tissue sample, visit gctrf.org.

Despite the small study sample, Crosely stays enthusiastic about his research, a quality Hitt applauds him for.

“We’re really happy to have him in the lab,” said Hitt. It’s nice to have a reminder everyday of the whole personal side, the human side of what we’re doing in the lab.”

This personal side of research is exactly what keeps Crosely’s enthusiasm alive. It’s clear that the dedication to his research is driven by his love for his wife, and the hope that other women won’t have to go through the pain she experienced.

“I have nothing else to do with my life, my wife was my life.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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