It is being hailed as another defining moment for UNBC and cancer research. A number of organizations, like UNBC, the BC Cancer Agency and Genome BC are joining forces to bring a project to the North that exists in the 604 area code. It’s a Biobank, which is a collection of different individuals’ genetic make ups from the North. They idea hails from Dr. Nadine Caron, who was asked why it’s important to get these Northern samples.
“I get asked that a lot. You know it seems a bit odd because the population of the North is so small, we’re so remote, we’re so spread out over such a large geographic area, we’re two-thirds of the province with only six percent of the province’s population,” says Dr. Caron. “Why go through that effort when there’s all these biobanks in metropolitan centres? There’s research going on across Canada, but there’s not using the data or the specimens from Northern populations because they simply are not available.”
Prince George MLA Shirley Bond has been a champion for cancer care and research in the North. She says this just adds to the presence Northern BC has in things like cancer research and treatment.
“Today is about personalized medicine and, to think, that Northern BC will now be a partner in ensuring that Northern residents and, in particular, First Nations individuals, that their treatment and their success will be part of clinical trials, for example.”
A biobank is a collection of biological samples, such as blood and tissue. These samples, along with associated health information, are collected with donor consent under stringent ethical guidelines. Biobanks are often located in large research hospitals in metropolitan cities and the population demographics they capture, therefore, differ greatly from
northern, rural First Nations and Aboriginal communities. The Northern Biobank will be critical to understanding the nuances of these distinct populations to better develop health programs and improve health outcomes.
Those samples are then used for research and can be used to better personalize cancer treatment for Northerners. A total of $1.25 million has been set aside for the work, which is just the beginning.