Research in the Cancer Axis focuses on the cause and prognosis of cancers from infancy to adulthood. The axis has developed translational strengths in four areas – breast cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma and colon cancer – that are global public health concerns and represent a major clinical burden to the health care system.

As a designated breast cancer and melanoma referral center for Québec, members of this axis, in conjunction with the UROMED Prostate Cancer center, have investigated and refined the diagnostic and prognostic tools for breast and prostate cancer and melanoma. This research has led to the development of technology to identify genetic signatures of cancer, which can be used to predict, prevent and personalize medicine.

Additional initiatives include genomics-based cancer research, where researchers conduct large scale expression analyses aimed at assessing global patterns of gene expression in breast and ovarian cancers. Isolation of different cell types by laser capture microdissection is being used to identify distinct signatures for early stage disease, metastatic lesions, tumour stroma and tumour vasculature. The study of cancer signatures in colorectal cancer has already shown that this disease is not a single entity but rather comprises several diseases that evolve through independent pathways.

Research in this axis continues to contribute to the improvement of quality of life and the provision of optimal palliative care at all stages of disease. The Cancer Axis has attained international recognition for the development of quality of life measures for palliative care patients and their families. Future research will focus on the study of systemic aspects of human cancer, and the capability to respond to the emerging reality of individualized cancer care, while taking advantage of the unique opportunity to study the disease across the infancy-to-adulthood continuum at the MUHC.