Understanding the Benefits of Camp

As a part of a psychosocial research group from the Alberta Health Services, we are hoping to research how going to camp has benefited your child!

Childhood Cancer camps have been documented as a place where children affected by cancer get the opportunity to learn certain social interactions in a setting that allows them to feel some sort of normalcy. However there has been very little research done to prove the benefits of childhood cancer camps on the health related quality of life of children directly affected by cancer. We are hoping to gain insight in to how attending camp has affected camper’s quality of life, self-esteem and social skills.

Parents and children will both participate, completing a survey before heading off to camp and then once again once you get back from camp. The surveys should take approximately 30 minutes to complete. Both questionnaires can be accessed online and can be completed in the comfort of your own home. 

Participation in this study is completely voluntary and you may withdraw from involvement at any time, your childs camp experience will remain unchanged if you chose to decline participation.

If you are interested in learning more about this research or how you can participate please email achcampstudy@gmail.com or call 403 955 7827.


The MATCH Study

As more people survive cancer, the importance of research on effective interventions for improving quality of life amongst survivors is growing. Two interventions with a substantial evidence-base are Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery (MBCR) and Tai chi/Qigong (TCQ). However, these interventions have never been directly compared and they may help cancer patients in different ways.

MBCR focuses primarily on the challenges faced by people living with cancer. Different forms of meditation are introduced, beginning with a body scan and sensory awareness experience and progressing to sitting and walking meditations over the course of the program. Gentle Hatha yoga is incorporated throughout, as a form of moving meditation. Facilitator instruction, group discussion and reflection, problem solving, and skillful inquiry are also used.

Tai chi involves a series of slow specific movements or “forms” done in a meditative fashion to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity. Qigong exercises generally have three components: a posture (moving or stationary), breathing techniques, and mental focus on guiding chi/qi through the body. TCQ incorporates simple Tai Chi elements within a healing framework stemming from Qigong principles.

In order to participate you must:

  • Be over the age of 18
  • Have been diagnosed with any type of cancer (stage I-III) except brain
  • Have completed active treatment (i.e. surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy) at least 4 months previously (ongoing hormonal therapies, AIs, tamoxifen, herceptin does not preclude)
  • Be able to attend classes at scheduled times
  • Have sufficient functional capacity to participate (judged by PAR-Q questionnaire, study staff, participant and participant’s physician)
  • Be able to speak, read, and write English sufficiently to participate in all activities.

You are unable to participate if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Your cancer is metastatic or you are currently on chemotherapy.
  • You currently engage in meditation or tai chi one or more times per week
  • You have participated in the MBCR program in the past.

What is required of participants?

  • Indicate whether you have a strong preference for taking either mindfulness or tai chi/qigoing classes. If you have a preference you will get the group that you want. If you don’t have a preference, we will assign you to one or the other randomly, like the flip of a coin
  • Once you are assigned to a group, you will either start within a week or two, or wait three-four months to start – we will tell you how long you are assigned to wait.
  • Before the group sessions begin, we will ask you to come into the cancer centre to complete a package of questionnaires on the computer (or on paper), which will take about 30-45 minutes. Then we will measure your blood pressure and heart rate for about 20 minutes, and conduct a few simple tests of your flexibility, balance and strength. Finally you will visit the lab either that day or over the next week, and have three small (10mL) tubes of blood drawn for later analysis.
  • Before your classes start, you will also collect saliva (spit) samples in little tubes at home, four times a day over three days.
  • Your classes will either begin shortly after that, or you will wait 3-4 months for the next class. If you are waiting, you will fill out the questionnaires and do the other tests one more time before your classes begin.
  • When your classes begin, they will occur once weekly for 9-11 weeks (depending on your group). Classes will be held at the Holy Cross Site of Cancer Control Alberta.
  • After completing your classes, you will once again complete the same questionnaires either online at home, or on paper, and visit the hospital again for the 20 minute blood pressure test, balance, strength and flexibility tests, and to provide another 2 tubes of blood.
  • 6 months later, you will once again complete the questionnaires, blood pressure test, balance, flexibility and strength tests and provide 2 tubes of blood at the lab.

To learn more or sign up for the study, please visit The MATCH Study website.


Sleep and physical activity in families with pediatric cancer survivors

Researchers at the University of Calgary Healthy HEARTS Lab are looking for participants for a study that is looking at sleep and physical activity in families with pediatric cancer survivors. They are looking for families who have:

 1. A child between the ages of 8 and 18 years, who was diagnosed with and treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in the past two to seven years;

 2. A sibling between 8-18 years old if available; and

 3. At least one parent or caregiver interested in taking part in the study.

During the study, participants will:

  1. Wear a special wrist watch that measures sleep and activity for seven consecutive days; and
  2. Visit the Healthy HEARTS lab at the University of Calgary for a one-hour study session, where they will complete a few questionnaires.

Each participant will receive an e-gift card as an honorarium and all parking costs at the university will be covered.

For more information or to participate in the study, please contact the research coordinator at hearts@ucalgary.ca or 403 220 6024 or visit familysleepstudy.com.

*This study has been approved by the University of Calgary Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board. CHREB Ethics ID: REB14-0864


How cancer affects the boyfriend or girlfriend of a adolescent with cancer

Researchers at the University of Calgary are conducting a study examining how a boyfriend or a girlfriend of an adolescent with cancer, might be affected by this experience. If you are, or have been a boyfriend or a girlfriend of an adolescent who has or had cancer during the time of the relationship up to the age of 25, researchers would like to learn from you about your experience. Participation in this study is without payment and would involve one audiotaped interview of about an hour-and-a-half in length. If you are interested in participating in the study, please email Dr. Nancy Moules. Visit Dr. Nancy Moules website.

This study has been approved by the Ethics Board. ID: REB15-0282


Your support helped bring a new children’s cancer drug to clinical trial

The drug is called Carfilzomib and clinical health researchers at 10 major pediatric hospitals across North America are now evaluating it in a phase I clinical trial for difficult-to-treat children’s cancers.

Open to all eligible children with relapsed leukemia and solid tumours, the study will closely monitor and analyze the side effects of Carfilzomib to determine the maximum dose children can safely tolerate. The trial will cost approximately $3.5 million (U.S.) to administer.

Dr. Aru Narendran of the Alberta Children’s Hospital and University of Calgary and Dr. Jessica Boklan of Phoenix Children’s Hospital are the principal investigators in a new phase I clinical trial, studying the side effects of a drug called Carfizomib on children with high-risk cancers. Dr. Tony Truong, co-principal investigator at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, along with U of C clinical research staff, Karen Mazil and Pina Giuliano, are helping to monitor side effects and analyze findings from the study.

Previously tested and approved for use in adult patients, Carfilzomib has shown promise for treating adults with multiple myeloma—a high-risk leukemia. Studies in a University of Calgary lab revealed that the drug also acts on pediatric cancer cells. These findings from Dr. Aru Narendran’s lab were presented last year at a meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research.

Carfilzomib was originally synthesized from a natural substance made by a soil bacterium to protect itself. Scientists in Dr. Craig Crews’ lab at Yale University serendipitously discovered in 1998 that Carfilzomib also has strong anti-cancer properties. Their discovery led to clinical drug trials and FDA approval in 2012 for use in adults with multiple myeloma—a high-risk leukemia.

Carfilzomib’s anti-cancer properties lies in its ability to inhibit a mechanism called the proteasome, which cancer cells use for survival. Because cancer cells divide and multiply so quickly and recklessly, they make a lot of mistakes, leading to abnormally formed proteins within the cancer cells. These poorly formed molecules put stress on the cancer and threaten its survival. To get around this, the cancer cells increase their use of a mechanism called the proteasome to repair their mistakes. But by inhibiting proteasomes, Carfilzomib prevents the cancer cell from repairing itself and ultimately helps it to die of its own imperfections.

“The beauty of this drug is it goes after a mechanism used by all cancer cells, so it can be used against different cancers,” says Dr. Narendran a pediatric cancer researcher with the Experimental and Applied Therapeutics (ExpAT) program at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and the University of Calgary. “Normal cells don’t make so many mistakes, so this drug will be less toxic to normal cells, which may mean fewer side effects for children.”

Another promising attribute of Carfilzomib is that it works synergistically with other chemotherapies to boost their ability to kill cancer cells. This is especially important for chemo-resistant cancers.

“It’s kind of a safety net,” says Dr. Narendran. “Because the chemo agents and their toxicity are already known to us, we can use these chemotherapies with Carfilzomib to boost their potency for better outcomes.”

Although Carfilzomib looks promising, Dr. Narendran stresses that “What we know so far comes only from adult patients or from laboratory studies against pediatric cancer cells. We do not know if it will actually offer any benefit to pediatric cancer patients yet.”

As a phase I clinical trial, the study is not intended to cure children, but to understand its toxicities and determine suitable doses for treating children in the future.

Still, it is the first important step in a long quest to find safe and effective treatments for children with incurable cancers.

If it lives up to its potential, Carfilzomib may one day offer hope for children with incurable cancers.

If you are interested in this study for your child, please speak with your child’s oncologist to determine eligibility.