In an attempt to facilitate stem cell research with out federal funding, the BC Cancer Agency in collaboration with partners across Canada have leveraged funding for three years. The fund is valued at approximately $1.2 million. This project is an important partnership between the Stem Cell Network and several biotech partners who have joined forces to support an integrated research effort across Canada that will focus on developing new ways of improving the use of umbilical cord blood stem cell transplants.

Dr. Clay Smith, researcher at the BC Cancer Agency and a principal investigator on the project, will be speaking about the opportunities this research holds on November 5 in Vancouver at the 2008 annual conference of the Stem Cell Network.

In 1989, it was first shown that the usually discarded blood in the umbilical cord of a newborn baby contained enough blood stem cells to help treat a sibling child who needed a transplant. In the past decade, transplantation with umbilical cord blood stem cells has become a life-saving procedure for thousands of persons around the world with blood cancers and other serious blood disorders who did not have a genetically matched sibling or volunteer donor available.

While this treatment has brought hope to many people, umbilical cord blood transplants still have many limitations. The most important is that a typical cord blood unit does not contain enough blood stem cells to rapidly restore blood formation and function in most adult patients. To get around this problem, many centres are now combining several cord blood units to give to a single adult.

The Stem Cell Network, established in 2001, brings together more than 80 leading scientists, clinicians, engineers, and ethicists from universities and hospitals across Canada with a mandate to investigate the immense therapeutic potential of stem cells for the treatment of diseases currently incurable by conventional approaches. Headquartered at the University of Ottawa, the Stem Cell Network is one of Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence funded through Industry Canada and its three granting councils. (

The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing mortality from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer.

It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. The BC Cancer Foundation raises funds to support research and enhancements to patient care at the BC Cancer Agency.