January 13, 2019 4:37 pm
Updated: January 14, 2019 5:19 pm

University of Lethbridge researchers studying glioblastoma, the brain cancer that killed Gord Downie

WATCH ABOVE: University of Lethbridge researchers are trying to unravel the mysteries of one of the deadliest types of cancers — the same kind that took a Canadian music icon far too soon. Kyle Benning explains.


Researchers at the University of Lethbridge are attempting to unravel the mysteries of glioblastoma, one of the deadliest forms of cancer — and the same cancer that took the life of Canadian music icon Gord Downie.

Postdoctoral fellow Joseph Ross is used to looking at samples, but the project he’s working on is a little closer to his heart.

“Like most Canadians around my age, I grew up listening to The Tragically Hip. I was really saddened to hear when Gord (Downie) was diagnosed with glioblastoma because I knew the prognosis. I knew that it was just a matter of time before we lost him and, indeed, we did,” he said.

The research team is looking into the mechanics of glioblastoma and trying to understand why cancer-fighting treatments aren’t helping patients.

WATCH: Ask The Doctor — Glioblastoma brain cancer tumour

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Glioblastoma killed The Tragically Hip lead singer back in 2017 and also took the life of U.S. Sen. John McCain.

Experts say most patients diagnosed with the brain cancer only live about 15 months after their diagnosis.

READ MORE: Gord Downie dead: The Tragically Hip lead singer dies of cancer at 53

“Even after advancement in chemotherapy, radiation therapy (and) surgical removal of tumours — most of the front-line therapies are not working in clinical. Therefore, it is important to find alternative ways to treat this cancer,” said Campus Alberta Innovation Program chair Nehal Thakor.

He added that glioblastoma cells evade death, and his team is trying to understand why this happens even while patients are receiving cancer treatment.

READ MORE: In Gord We Trust: Canadians pay tribute to Gord Downie on the 1-year anniversary of his death

Ross said it’s great to do what he loves, knowing that down the road it could save lives.

“I always think that I love to do the science, and if it’s going to help people, it’s just gravy. It’s icing on the cake. Now, working on the particular cancer that Gord got, it’s just even more icing on the cake,” he said.

The team will start mice trials soon but say they have only scratched the surface in their research.

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